First I just want to say, if you’ve written to me and haven’t heard back yet, it haunts me. Unanswered emails keep me up at night. One of these days I’m going to take a week off from writing and just answer them. I will! Truly! There’s a New Year’s Resolution if ever I heard one! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m not a vegetarian, but every year I feel terrible for all the poor turkeys. Why can’t carving say, a cake, be a Thanksgiving tradition instead of carving a turkey? Or better yet, Funnel Cake!! All in favor of funnel instead of fowl, say “aye!”
Speaking of fowl, any fellow Artemis Fowl fans out there? If you haven’t read these books by Eoin Colfer yet, what are you waiting for? SO funny and smart with page-turning action. Although when I read them I don’t actually turn any pages since I listen to them on CD instead. When Listening Library released the latest one in the series, Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, with a different narrator than the others, you should have heard the outcry from the diehard fans. I admit, I was one of those fans. It’s as if Jim Dale suddenly stopped narrating the Harry Potter books in the middle of the series. Shudder! Fortunately for the sanity of the fans, the original narrator, Nathaniel Parker, DID eventually record the book too, and now I just need to find a way to get it from England. But get it I shall, because tracking it down is a perfect example of spending my time on something I shouldn’t be spending it on. I honestly need someone (or some thing) to lock me in a room and tell me I won’t be allowed to eat or sleep if I don’t turn out 10 pages a day.
One of my problems is I keep rewriting the beginning. Beginnings are hard for me. Endings are easy. Some wise person once told me to write the whole book, then take out the first chapter and start the book there. It’s an interesting theory, but I prefer to torture myself (and my editor) by obsessing over the best way to start the story. Is it on “the day that’s different?” The day before the day that’s different? Do you start with character, action, or setting? How do you make a reader care about a character so quickly that they want to keep reading? It’s a challenge, I tell you, a challenge. After I finish writing my current book, called FINALLY!, I have to revise THE CANDYMAKER’S SON. Here’s a sneak peak at the beginning. I’ll be curious myself to see how it changes before the final version.
Opening of THE CANDYMAKER’S SON, a work in progress. I will probably cringe a year from now when I look back on posting this.
Like his father before him, the Candymaker could tell if a vat of chocolate needed one more teaspoon of cocoa merely by glancing at it from across the room. The Candymaker’s son, not surprisingly, could do the same. But the Candymaker’s son could do something his father and grandfather could not. He could identify the color and variety of any kind of chocolate by feel alone. He discovered this talent just as you’d expect—by blindfolding himself and sticking one clean finger into the warm mixture.
“Milk chocolate!” Josh announced, waving his finger high in the air. The factory workers cheered and placed another vat before him.
“Bittersweet!” he cried. “White! Unsweetened dark!” The workers gave him the white vat twice in a row but he wasn’t fooled. He was four years old at the time and he knew his chocolate.
Josh’s special gifts gave him special privileges. He had free reign to wander through the factory, observing as his grandfather’s handmade machines turned out candy of all sizes, shapes, colors, and smells. If a Snorting Wingbat had one extra green Wingbat in the bag, Josh would spot it before it was sealed in for good. If the Oozing Crunchorama had one hazelnut too little, Josh would toss in the nut to save the day. And he didn’t get a big head when his first original creation—the Bubbletastic ChocoRocket—sent shock waves through the candy community as the first candy to turn from chocolate to gum…and back again!
Since Josh’s parents didn’t believe in traditional schooling, he grew up as a student of life. His father taught him how to be kind and generous and hardworking. His mother taught him how to read and write and about what was important in life, and what wasn’t. Chemistry and baking he learned at the elbow of the Candymaker’s right-hand-man, Max Pinkus (Max was the confectionary genius responsible for creating the famous neon yellow Lightning Chew, among other bestsellers.) From Max’s wife Suzy, the factory’s bookkeeper, Josh learned how to divide big numbers by small numbers and how to keep organized by taking things one step at a time. Everything else he learned by playing on the great lawn behind the factory.
It was precisely this combination of knowledge that would one day allow Josh to see—or rather, smell—that something just wasn’t right.
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By the way, I owe the names of some of the candies to the candy-loving (and book-loving) kids at Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, NJ. Thank you to everyone who sent in an idea for a sequel to A Mango-Shaped Space or Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. They were SO CREATIVE! I’ll keep you posted! Thank you to everyone who visited me last month in NYC at Books of Wonder, arguably one of the best children’s bookstores in the world. And they have cupcakes! I made some new author pals there, and put up a photo in the Author Pals section of my site, so check that out.
My friend and fellow writer Courtney sent me this pic from her local bookstore in NYC. 11 Birthdays is right next to Every Soul a Star. I haven’t had two new books out within a few months of each other since A Mango-Shaped Space and Leap Day. Fun! (And check out Courtney’s book with the light blue cover!)
Check back in a day or two for lots of new things to see on my website—interviews, author pal pics, and other Fun Stuff.
Happy Holidays everyone! I hope it’s full of joy (and candy!).
(speaking of candy, a big thank you to Katie Davis, author of the fab The Curse of Addy McMahan, for sending me a mutant piece of Good n’ Plenty. It was super long and skinny and totally mutant. I’ll save it forever. Or at least until it gets moldy, whichever comes first.)