Yesterday I bought a Wii, and I’ve been bowling on it with my grandson.  Because of the weakness in my legs and arms from post-polio syndrome, it has been years since I’ve been able to go bowling.  Now, thanks to technology, I am “bowling” in my living room.

When I was paying for the Wii, the clerk asked, “Is this for your grandchildren?”   I said, “No, it’s for me.”  She was startled; apparently not too many grey-haired grandmothers purchase computer games for themselves. 

 I think the willingness to try new things is imperative for a writer. A writer’s business is ideas; all writers need to be observant and inquisitive.  Keeping up with what’s new in the world is part of my job – and it’s also a lot of fun!

Cats and books

Edgar has been here a week and he is doing great. He no longer bolts into his hiding place when I enter his room. He purrs and rolls around on the floor and has started “talking” to me. He has quite a lot to say.

No doubt Edgar will show up in a book some day, as I seem to use all of my animals in my work eventually. 

 I’ve been trying to start a new book and the process is always difficult for me.  I have two chapters of two different books written, but I’m stuck on both of them. Today I had a completely new idea, which I’m going to develop next.  I often do this – play around with several ideas, writing a little on one and then a little on another until one seems to “catch fire” and I know it’s the one I want to finish.

I’m reading the collected letters of Ogden Nash to his family. They are an inspiration to me.  I’ve always liked Nash’s work but never knew much about his personal life. I love reading about other writers.

Isn’t it wonderful that I can be inspired by a writer who died decades ago?  He is gone, but his words live on.

When I was asked to write an autobiography, I hesitated at first wondering why anyone would be interested in my life. However, ever since I published Five Pages a Day: A Writer’s Journey, I’ve had many letters each week from writers and going-to-be-writers of all ages who tell me it helped them.  I dare to hope that long after I am gone, my books might continue to encourage young people to read, and to write.

Foster care for cats

My newest volunteer venture is to be a foster parent for cats.  I have a large room that used to be my husband’s workshop which is perfect for fostering animals. 

My first foster cat is Edgar, a beautiful black five-year-old cat who is very fearful.  He was rescued from a hard life by Pasado’s Safe Haven. My job is to help him relax, trust, and learn to love while Pasado’s tries to find him a permanent home.

Edgar has chosen to hide under a workbench, so I am spending a lot of time lying on the floor with my hands stretched under the workbench to pet him.  He loves the petting and has a deep, rumbling purr. He even rolls on his back for a tummy rub, the way dogs do.  I hope before long he will feel comfortable enough with me to emerge from his hiding place.

 I spent an hour yesterday vacuuming that room and Edgar found the only place I didn’t clean.  I have to keep rubbing cobwebs and bits of dirt out of his fur. I don’t want to vacuum now because the noise would scare him.

I got to choose this cat’s name.  He is named for Edgar Allen Poe, the mystery writer, and for Edgar Martinez, the baseball player.

New Fawn

A baby deer was born here yesterday. It is so cute! It’s the size of a small dog and can already run through the grass.  It follows the mother deer, who is alert and watchful as she grazes.  Sometimes she settles her baby in the grass, and the fawn stays put while the mother continues to eat.  Mama keeps looking back, to be sure her baby is safe.

I also saw a pair of California quail yesterday pecking in the grass near one of my feeders.  I keep four bird feeders full each day and have a variety of birds but these were the first quail I’ve seen here.  My father used to put out seed for the quail when we lived in California so these beautiful birds always make me think of him.

 I don’t watch much television. I don’t need to – Mother Nature puts on a wonderful show outside my windows every day. 

Scaring myself and others

A reader asked me why I’m so good at creating bad guys. The answer is, I don’t know.  Sometimes I scare myself.

My husband knew that if I was writing, he couldn’t just walk into the room and start talking to me because if I was writing a scary part, I would scream and jump out of my chair.  So Carl would bang his hand on the wall as he approached, to let me know he was coming down the hall toward my office. That way I knew it was him, and not an escaped convict with a knife.


I had an e-mail from a reader yesterday saying there is a typo in Escaping the Giant Wave.  This book was published in 2004 and nobody had noticed this error before, or at least they didn’t tell me about it.  When I opened the book to page 24, I found that my young reader was correct: there is a mistake.  I can’t even call it a typo because this is clearly a math error! 

Before a book is printed, it gets read several times by me, by my editor, by copy editors and line editors – and not one of us noticed that BeeBee says five times $125 equals $725, when it actually equals $625.

This is not the first time I’ve made a mistake that has slipped by the watchful eyes of editors and made it into print. There was an error in my first novel, Deadly Stranger, that came about because I changed the letters on a license plate in one spot in the book but forgot to change it in an earlier place. That time, the mistake was discovered by my daughter as soon as the book was published.  The hardcover publisher went bankrupt so I couldn’t correct future hardcover editions, but Troll had purchased paperback rights, so I wrote to them and requested a correction in the paperback edition. They agreed to make the change, but didn’t.  After Troll’s contract ran out, I sold paperback rights to Pocket Books and again asked for the correction. Again, I was told it would be fixed but it wasn’t.  The book finally went out of print twenty years after the error was discovered without ever being corrected.

I’ve made other mistakes over the years, as well, and I’m always dismayed when a reader spots one.

Sometimes I’m accused of errors that I didn’t make! One reader wrote to tell me that in The Hideout it’s wrong to have the train blow its whistle in town. He said his dad works for the railroad and train whistles are no longer blown in town.  Well, maybe not where he lives, but where I live, the trains whistle loud and long in town all the time. (You can hear them in the background if you watch a Seattle Mariner’s baseball game.)

There is a mistake on the cover of my newest Pete the Cat book, Trapped.  This time it wasn’t my fault!  The artist depicted Pete with a white tail when Pete actually has a dark brown tail.  His tail doesn’t show on the covers of The Stranger Next Door or Spy Cat so this never came up before.  I’ve requested a correction for the paperback edition – but I’m not holding my breath!

Creative people

Last Sat. I spoke at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in Portland, Oregon. I always enjoy a chance to see my fellow writers and to “talk shop” with them. I find it energizing to be around creative people who work hard to fulfill their dreams.

On Sun. I attended a production of “Godspell” in Bellevue, WA, because my grandson, Eric, played drums in the show. It was a fantastic production and thrilled me to see Eric using his talents.  Whether it’s writing, music, or any other artistic endeavor, creative projects feed the spirit.

I am ready to begin a new book and I couldn’t have better preparation than to attend an SCBWI conference and a fantastic musical production.

Good readers

    I spent yesterday afternoon in Burien WA with some amazing students from the Highline School District. The event was Book Quest, called Battle of the Books in some areas. Twelve teams of four students competed by answering ten questions about ten books. Six teams went on to the final round, where they each answered another ten questions about the same books.

     My book, Abduction!, was one of the ten so I was present to hand out prizes, say a few words about how I came to write Abduction!  and autograph books.

    I had read most of the other books on the list but I would not have made it to the finals if I had been a team member.  These kids were fantastic.  It was clear they had read the books carefully, and understood them fully. I was impressed by their knowledge, their enthusiasm, and their respect for each other.

     It was a privilege for me to participate in Book Quest and the afternoon reinforced why I love to write for kids.

Not enough time

I am often asked by a young reader if I will be his or her pen pal. I feel so honored by these requests but I have to say no to all of them.  Most weeks I get about 100 letters and, while I try to respond to all of them, I can not answer any one person more than once.

 The same problem arises when I’m asked to read what someone else, student or adult, has written.  I want to encourage new writers but I simply don’t have time to read unpublished manuscripts.

 Today was Mother’s Day and I had a good one. One of my grandsons, Eric, came down yesterday and spent the night with me. He repaired my bird feeders (yes, Papa Bear came back and wrecked them again) and helped me stack a big pile of firewood.  We met my daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Kevin, and my granddaughter, Brett, for lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant and then strolled through a local rhododendron garden.  My son, Bob, called to wish me Happy Mother’s Day, too, so I felt special and spoiled today! 

Papa Bear Returns

My dog, Lucy, woke me at 2:30 a.m. Monday night. She ran to the living room, barking, so I got up, flipped on the yard lights, and saw a big black bear on my back porch! He had  tipped over the large wooden bin where I store birdseed and was trying to get the lid off.

   When I rapped on the window, the bear turned and looked in at me. I rapped again, and he ambled down the porch steps. Next he removed both my bird feeders from their posts, yanked them open, and ate the seed. He also tipped over the bird bath. Then he went to the front side of the house where he tipped over the other bird bath and removed that bird feeder!

   While he was in front, I went out to the back porch and brought my birdseed bin indoors. There are teeth marks on the lid. I watched Papa Bear for an hour before he finally plodded away into the woods.

    My son-in-law, Kevin, came the next day and repaired all the bird feeders and reinstalled them. Papa Bear did not return last night.  It was exciting to see him so close and it was fun to watch him work at getting the seed, but I am not eager to have him up on my porch again.

    I’ve already written about bears in The Hideout but I still made some notes about this experience and put them in my Ideas Box.

    I had a check this week for photocopies of my work made in other countries. For this accounting period, my writing was photocopied in Spain, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Quebec, and some places listed merely as “overseas.”