Friday, July 31, 2009

It's all about me

The latest version of Safari has this cool feature where a button (called Top Sites) is inserted into your menu bar that gives you instant access to the 12 web sites you frequent the most (based on your internet history).

Mine are, um, not the most intellectual.


The sites are:
  1. My Google home page (with Google Alerts front and center)
  2. My blog
  3. Good Reads
  4. Live Journal
  5. Stat Counter (that tracks the statistics for my web site)
  6. A private writers' chat room I participate in
  7. Title Z - a site that keeps track of Amazon rankings (not that I care about that...)
  8. Facebook
  9. Twitter
  10. (I know, I know...)
  11. My own web site
  12. My Google mailbox (where most of my message boards are...)

Like, dude, kind of shallow, huh?

Where is the Wall Street Journal?
The How-to-Save-the-World site?
How about - Martha Stewart's "Host a Summer Picnic with Gazpacho Made From Your Homegrown Vegetables and Served in that Fabulous Soup Tureen You Made Yourself from Imported Moldovian Clay on the Hand-Embroidered Picnic Blanket"?

I bet some shrink would have a ball analyzing people's Top Sites.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Monkey mind

Another thing about copy editing [are you sick of this subject yet?] is that it forces you to use your monkey mind (your conscious mind), instead of your wild mind (your unconscious mind).

[Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life]

That means that you have to really think about the words in a different way than you think about the story.

It's almost as if the writing is just that: words....

....separate....individual words.....disconnected from the words around them that form a whole (i.e., a meaningful story).

Does that make sense? can sometimes make me nuts - because when I think about the words so much, I lose the unconscious flow that was the original creation - and then I start questioning myself too much.

I'm currently going through the copy edits of my next novel, The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham.

Today I'm thinking about railroad tracks vs train tracks.

I know, I know.....

When I wrote the manuscript, I didn't think about those words.

Sometimes I used railroad tracks.

And sometimes I used train tracks.

And one copy editor says I should be consistent.

And one copy editor says it doesn't matter.

And I have a Post-It note on every page with that phrase so I can think about it.

And the more I think about it....

Good grief....

I need my monkey mind to go away and my wild mind to come back.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Okay, so I wake up in the middle of the night and am thinking about Tooley Graham copy editing and specifically:

When he heard the click clack of her heavy black shoes on the wooden stairs, he clamped a hand over his mouth to stifle a giggle. When he heard the kitchen door swing open, he clamped his other hand over his mouth, his shoulders shaking with a silent laugh.

And then I think:

Wait! Heavy black shoes don't go click clack.

Heavy black shoes go clomp, clomp.

But you can't use clomp and clamp in the same sentence.


When he heard the clomp clomp of her heavy black shoes on the wooden stairs, he slapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a giggle. When he heard the kitchen door swing open, he slapped his other hand over his mouth, his shoulders shaking with a silent laugh.

What do y'all think?


Okay, so here's another weird thing about the process of copy editing for me...

I'm very superstitious when it comes to some aspects of creating a book.

Before I can begin the process of writing a book...

....I have to have the perfect title.

And the perfect first line.

And the perfect character names.

Those three elements are critical.

Sometimes, it takes me a long time to get those three things.

Sometimes (most times), I have at least one of them before I have any idea what the story is about.

And once I have all three things, I never, ever change them.

I have this (probably stupid) feeling that if I do, something bad will happen. Heh....

[Side note: I was recently visiting my editor at FSG and was looking at her shelf of works-in-progress. I commented on one of them and she said, "It has a different title now." I was so shocked by that!]

The first (and very critical) sentence of my next book (The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham) is:

Owen Jester tiptoed across the gleaming linoleum floor and slipped the frog into the soup.

The copy editor is suggesting the addition of "pot of" (as in "pot of soup") to give the reader the right visual.

I know that makes perfect sense.

I know that "pot of soup" instantly clarifies the image and conjures up the kitchen and the stove and the whole scenario.

I know that that sort of mental image is very, very important.

But it sounds different than that first version that is so etched in my mind.

However, I think I'm finally going to drop my silly superstitions and listen to my more practical mind and make the change.

(By the way, please don't call the ASPCA. The soup is not hot. The frog liked swimming in the soup.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Uses for trellis slats

My husband is a champion trellis builder.

He cut each one of these slats by hand.

Patience is his middle name.

So, what better use for leftover trellis slats than a Ruby-repellant for the screen porch?

Puppy kindergarten!

Monday, July 27, 2009

And then ANOTHER thing....

....about copy editing is that you are sometimes (oftentimes) amazed at the things you didn't see even though you've read that manuscript 498 times (which, of course, is why you didn't see them).

For instance....

[From The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham]

When he heard the click clack of her heavy black shoes on the wooden stairs, he clamped a hand over his mouth to stifle a giggle. When he heard the kitchen door swing open, he clamped another hand over his mouth, his shoulders shaking with a silent laugh.

The copy editor suggests "his other hand" instead of "another hand."

(She politely points out that he only has two hands.)


Reason #543 why we need fresh eyes on our work.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oh, no!

You know how Ruby tore up the screened porch?

My husband spent a couple of hours on a sunny Saturday repairing it.

He was not particularly happy about it.

Um, guess what?

And not just one screen....

Two screens...

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby....

P.S. We are now covering the screen. We learn the hard way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The problem with copy editing

I have a love/hate relationship with the process of copy editing.

My organized, attention-to-detail self loves it.

But my other self (whatever that is) hates it.

The reason I sometimes hate it is because it makes me obsess about small stuff until I'm so mired down in the trees I can't see the forest.

I remember working on copy edits for Taking Care of Moses and getting all tangled up and agonizing over whether a character skipped up the sidewalk or down the sidewalk.

And wording that sounded so right and natural when it came flowing out of my brain makes me scratch my head and go "huh?" when I read it for the 50th time.

Here's a good example of stupid over-obsessing (can you over obsess or does obsess imply over obsess? Where's my copyeditor? Or is it copy editor?):

Because he knew Viola was right about the staples. And he knew she didn't mean staples like the little ones for paper. She meant those heavy-duty kind like his father used to staple plastic over the windows in the winter at their old house on Tupelo Road.

Now, the copy editor is suggesting: "She meant that heavy-duty kind like his father used...."

And I think that is technically right.

But it just doesn't sound right to me - because that is not the way I would say it - even though I would probably say it wrong.....

.....I don't know.....

And then today I'm obsessing over:

He reached in and scooped Tooley up.


He reached in and scooped up Tooley.

I think I need to stop.

I know, I know......

I always feel like my first version is the "purest" and I should go with it - and then I go and over analyze everything.

(And don't go telling me you can't end a sentence with a preposition cause I don't follow no stinkin' grammar rules....)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Starting the day

6:30 a.m. on the beach.

It was very misty and foggy.

Ruby practiced "sit" and "stay."

And did well, even when distracted by a lone jogger.

The tide was far out, leaving lots of great tidal pools for exploring.

And piles of squishy seaweed to jump in

And teeny weeny starfish!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And the winner is....

For the Great Galley Give-Away....

I wrote all the entries on strips of index cards and let my son choose one.

Congratulations, Kirby!

Your galley is on the way.

Now the rest of you are going to have to buy it.


The Great Galley Give-Away

Today's the day!

I'll be doing the drawing for The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis shortly.

Many thanks to all who participated.

Good luck!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Galley Give-Away Last Day

Today is the last day to enter your name in a drawing to win a galley of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.

Post your name and email in the comments or send to me via email.

Monday, July 20, 2009


....don't wake the baby.

My manuscript came back from copyediting. (The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham; spring 2010).

Ruby is napping and I finally have time to tackle it.

The flowers are from my garden.

The tablecloth is the Western States one that I bought on eBay even though I already had the exact same one - because I am such a ding dong brain.

The Post-It note on the Oprah Magazine (Oh, come on....I need a break once in a while) says: r-u-u-u-m-m-m.

That's the sound that a bullfrog makes.

In the first draft, I had ribbit.

But bullfrogs don't go ribbit.

But I didn't know how to describe the sound they make.

So I did a little research.

And the research taught me that they go r-u-u-u-m-m-m.

The reason I wrote it on a Post-It note is so I would remember how many "u's" and how many "m's" I put in there.

See what hard work writing is?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Because it's summer

The Best Strawberry Shortcake Ever (from Martha Stewart)

4 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
4 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2 cups plus 2 T heavy cream

  1. Put berries in a bowl and add lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Let stand till juicy (at least an hour)
  2. Combine 1/3 cup sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. With fork or pastry blender, cut butter into mixture till it resembles coarse meal
  4. Add 2 cups plus 2 T cream
  5. Mix till dough holds together
  6. Transfer to lightly floured surface and pat into 1" thick circle
  7. Use large round cookie cutters to cut dough (I use a glass)
  8. Transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and chill 20 minutes or overnight
  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  10. Bake 15 to 18 minutes
  11. Cool slightly on racks
  12. Slice shortcakes open and assemble with berries and whipped cream
(I often halve this.)

Galley Give-Away Reminder

I'm offering a bound galley of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, due out in September.

Just leave your name and email address in the comments or email it to me.

I'll be drawing a name on July 22.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Great Galley Give-Away

Want this?

A bound galley of my new book, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis...

...can be yours!

The publication date is September 15, but you can be the first on your block to read it.

Now, I've been racking my brain for weeks trying to come up with some clever way to give a galley away.

Here's what I came up with:

I was thinking maybe I'd require that you make a video of yourself saying "toy boat" 20 times - fast.

Or make a boat out of a Yoo-hoo chocolate drink carton and send it to me. (You'll understand that after you read the book.)

Or write your name on the back of a $50 gift certificate to the Apple Store.

But then.....I figured.....

....just give the dang thing away, will ya?

So, all you have to do is send me your name and email address via my email (barbaraoconnor AT mac DOT com) or in a comment on my blog...

....and you'll be entered in a drawing.

This offer good until one week from today (July 22).

How easy is that?

Monday, July 13, 2009

I love the mailman

Look what the mailman brought!!!

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Brand new, hot off the press.....

Amazon shows the pub date as September 15, but it's actually September 8. Hooray!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Good grief

So, I bought this walk-through gate to keep Ruby out of the family room.

Of course, it came in pieces...

....with 54 pages of instructions.

It took a long, long time to put together and set up.

And Ruby ran right through the bars.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who knew?

I've lived in the same neighborhood for 20 years.

It's a wonderful family neighborhood.

When my son was little, I knew everyone in the 'hood.

But once he got older, I hermitized a bit. (Like that word?)

I don't know many of the neighbors anymore.

I recently got a call from a neighbor with a landscaping question.

Long story...short....we discovered that....

Her 12-year-old daughter has read all of my books and calls me her favorite author.... (how flattering is that?)

She never knew I lived on the same street as she does!

She's lived on my street for 12 years and we've never met.

She and her mom came over to visit.

She loves to read and write, so of course, we had lots to talk about.

She brought me these. (Mint brownies!)

And her mother said the coolest thing:

Just think....all these years you've been on one side of the neighborhood writing your books and E has been on the other side reading them!

I love that!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The destroyer

How can something this cute....

Destroy a screened porch?

I had to use a board, towels, a tray and a table to block off the huge holes she made. This is a nice look, huh?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Give-Away Change-A-Mind

I was going to bump the date for my Great Galley Give-Away up to July 8, but then realized that is the week of the ALA conference and lots of book folks will be away.

So, I'm going to wait until the 15th, as originally planned.

Sorry for the wishy-washy-ness.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Great Galley Give-Away

I've decided to move the date of the Great Galley Give-Away up to July 8.

I mean, why not, huh?

So.....stay tuned for details.....

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My first newsletter

My first monthly (or somewhat-monthly) email newsletter went out today.

If you'd like to be included on my mailing list, send me your email to:

barbaraoconnor AT mac DOT com

You can unsubscribe at any time.

My Great Galley Give-Away

Coming July 15.....