Saturday, July 28, 2007

Martinis with Mandy Moore

All last week, I called in to a radio station to win tickets to an event where Mandy Moore would sing a few songs, then mingle with the crowd signing autographs and answering questions. The event was called "Martinis with Mandy." I was so goofy with excitement when I won that the DJ asked me how old I was, because he was pretty sure I was a kid who could not drink martinis with Mandy.

Yeah, my voice does that. I have to consciously NOT sound like a 12-year-old, particularly when I'm excited. I don't have a high-pitched voice, but for whatever reason, it sounds young. This is one of the reasons I'm wary of doing radio interviews. But anyway.

I've admired Mandy Moore since A Walk to Remember. Didn't know her early albums, which is apparently a good thing, because she thinks they were pretty lousy. Her latest, though, Wild Hope, is a folk album. That's my stuff.

So today was the big day and I, of course, brought my brother-- best audience member in the world. Unfortunately, several things went wrong. The place was hot and there were no chairs, and we stood for two full hours waiting for the show to start. One of those hours was because the radio people told us to come early so they could check IDs and such, and the other hour was because Mandy's flight was delayed and she came straight to us from the airport. It seemed she must have had someplace else to go right afterward, too, because she was there for only half an hour and then jetted out the door. The people from the radio station said that she'd sign stuff for all of us and we could pick it up at the station next week; I guess whoever did the scheduling made it all too close for comfort.

She took a few group photos before she sang, then did four songs from the new album (I loved Gardenia). She's beautiful in person, and her voice sounded super. Wish we had gotten to speak with her, but it was still nice to see her in such an intimate setting (a small room with maybe 70 people in the audience. We were right up front).

Here's the group shot-- I trimmed it down, but there's still someone I don't know in there (hi, person! Hope you don't mind being on my blog!). The photo on top of this post is one of the few clear photos I took. Don't know why I'm doomed to take fuzzy pictures whenever it's important.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

We interrupt this blog with an important message...

She's sleeping through the niiiiiight! Extra exclamation points all around!!! O joyous day!

This is her, practicing her pout.

I'm still staying up half the night, though, because I have several more books to read for the Writer's Digest Self-Published Books competition in the next couple of weeks. I guess I thought I was a faster reader than I am; it's taking me a long time to get through them. It's worth it, though. I really like the idea that at least one book is going to get plucked out of relative obscurity and get some big attention. I interviewed a fellow a couple of years back who won the contest and wound up with a 2-book deal with-- HarperCollins, I think. I keep hoping the big winner will be one of the ones in my pile, though the odds of that are low (there are thousands of entries; I'm reading about 65 of them).

Friday, July 13, 2007

New Motherhood and Patronizing Twits

I'll tell you the single most frustrating thing I've encountered as a new mom: hand-washing and the arguments that ensue over it.

No, seriously.

As I've learned in various places, one of the most important things you can do to protect a baby is to make sure that anyone who handles her washes his or her hands first. So I do my best to uphold that. And I'm sad to say that after four months, I'm still having the same arguments with people. I have no idea what's so difficult or traumatic about hand-washing, but there are people-- in my family-- who are determined never to do it. And who manage to seem freshly shocked each time I ask for it. (What? I'm supposed to wash my hands? I washed them last week when I came to visit! Isn't that good enough?)

There are also people who can't seem to resist saying patronizing things after hearing me ask someone to wash his or her hands. The most common one is:

I can tell you're a first-time mom.


It's because she's your first.

No, it's because I'd rather not have your fecal matter on my daughter, thanks. And even if she were my 16th child, I promise you I'd still want you to wash your hands before holding her.

I hereby vow not to ever become complacent about basic hygiene rules that could keep a baby safe, no matter how many kids I get to have. I wish that was just a given, and that I wouldn't have to tell people that. I'm really surprised to learn that so many people think it's so overly protective to ask for simple hand-washing. (Oh, and if I hear the tired old excuses about how the baby needs to get smothered in germs so she can develop her immune system one more time, I'll whack someone with my diaper bag.)

P.S. Sara, no way am I showing off my bald spots. But here's a fun one from today where you really can't tell what my hair looks like...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hair Today

There's a lot of stuff no one tells you about pregnancy until it's too late. I have run headlong into the latest one this week: somewhere around month 3 of your baby's life, YOU GO FRICKIN' BALD.

I had learned that you lose hair after giving birth, but thought that was no big deal because you actually hold onto a lot of hair during pregnancy, making it super-full. I had great pregnancy hair. Only fair to lose it afterwards, I figured. But no. I'm not just losing the extra hair I gained. I have two actual, factual bald spots now, right above my temples. The rest of my hair is breaking and looks horribly damaged and thin all of a sudden, so I went ahead and did the cliched thing-- I got a "mom cut." I didn't mean to. The stylist actually apologized while cutting it. And it looks... bad.

That's the sad thing about hair-- it takes so long to grow it back if you want it long (and I do). I need to cut it even shorter to get past the damaged parts, but it would take at least a year and a half to get it back to where it was a few weeks ago (halfway down my back).

Ah, well. Maybe bald spots will get trendy...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mail Woes

This is one of those deflating moments you never really think about when you're in the honeymoon stage of book publishing-- you know, the time between when you sign the contract and the first month or so after the book comes out. Those months are so full of possibilities. Then, there you are five years later with an unearned-out advance and a statement showing that you've managed to lose money in the last 6 months.

How, you ask? Simple: the number of returns exceed the number of sales.

"Returns" doesn't mean that a customer returned the book. It means that the book was sitting around on the bookstore shelf and someone who works in the bookstore finally decided it was just taking up space there and probably would never sell, so they get to return it to the publisher for full credit at any time. I guess some of those stores have been hanging onto the book for the full five years. Nice of them, really.

Anyway, there does come a point-- maybe after the first two or three royalty cycles-- where you pretty well figure out whether you're ever going to earn out. If so, then the countdown begins. You think to yourself, "Cool! I just have $340 to go before I start getting royalty checks." And you predict when that'll happen, and you fantasize about how big the check might be and for how many years you'll get to sit back and collect on the title. But if you realize it's never going to earn out, then it just feels mean for them to keep sending you statements. It's like a quarterly or biannual reminder of your failure. By about the fifth statement, you just want to say, "Okay, I get the point already! Quit rubbing it in."

"Earn out" days are always glorious, even when the checks aren't very big, because they represent the potential for lots more checks. I should probably knock on wood before I say this, but none of my books are out of print yet. Nonfiction has a longer shelf life than fiction, in most cases. So some of them have been earning modest royalties for me for several years.

But alas, today. Today the mail just taunted me, showing me that not only would I never earn out on this particular title, but that I had managed to go backward instead of forward, "owing" the publisher more money than last time. (I put "owing" in quotation marks because you don't actually pay back the publisher if the title doesn't sell enough to cover the advance. But they do show you in each statement how far you have to go to "pay back" the advance before you begin getting additional payments.)

Luckily, I accidentally sold a reprint yesterday, which cushioned the blow somewhat. Reprints are the other great bonus in a writer's life. You don't have to actually do anything except send the article out again (or, in this case, not even that-- the editor contacted me instead of the other way around), and presto: a free check. Cool, huh?