Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Critters Make me Happy

Today is the day I normally do my reviews. But, with the holidays and traveling with the fam, I wasn't able to finish a book. I wish I could do some reviews on unpublished books I've read. I've read a couple really good ones lately and have just started another really good one. But, as much as I want to rave about my awesomely talented friends, I fear it would only do two things. 1. It would be a big tease to you because it's not like you can go out and pick these books up. And 2. It would make me seem like a braggart (which I possibly am, but don't want to make it quite so obvious).

So, the thing I would like to discuss today is something we've discussed before and you probably already know, but I want to reiterate the necessity of having a critique group. Not just any critique group, but a great one.

A good beta reader does the following:

1. Makes you feel good about yourself and motivates you to be your best.

2. Gives you good suggestions that make sense with your story.

3. Doesn't try to change your story or writing to sound more like their writing/story.

4. Feels comfortable pointing out things that don't work in a way that makes you think about possible alternatives and not in a way that makes you want to hide your face in shame for having written such an obvious plot hole into your story.

5. Is also a writer. I'm not discounting non-writers as an important part of the reading process. I just think it's necessary to have writers in a critique group because let's face it, writers have lots of practice, not only in writing, but in reading.

I'm sure there are things I'm missing in the list. If you have a necessary characteristic that your critters must possess, leave it in the comments section.

I'm very lucky to have an awesome group of betas. A mistake I made when I first started writing was having too many betas. Too many people telling you the flaws in your story just leads to too many conflicting opinions. I now keep my first round of betas to a minimum and only let people outside that initial round read it when I feel all the wrinkles have been ironed out. After that, if in a second round, several people point out the same problem, I work on resolving it.

So how do you go about finding a critique group if you don't have one already? If you are one of those who already has one, leave a comment saying how you got together with your critique group. I feel very lucky that my best friend (Candi) and I discovered we were both secretly writing novels at the same time. We became each others instant critique group.

From this I learned not to keep my writing a secret. When I shared what I was doing with others, I learned I wasn't alone in my desire to be published. And as more and more people learned that I was writing, it became a good motivator for me to succeed.

After that, Candi and I joined a local face to face group that met every other week. From that group, which I no longer attend due to scheduling conflicts, I still keep in contact with 3 writers (Linda, Tricia, and Ed).

From this I learned to use the resources that were available around me. It helped me to be comfortable sharing my work with complete strangers and having my work discussed in a group format (which was very hard at first).

My other 2 betas I met online over a year ago (Natalie and Jenn).

From this I learned that the internet is an invaluable tool. It has brought me together with some awesome people that I love and it has also taught me more about writing and this publishing industry that I used to think was a big mystery.

Even though first drafting can be a lonely endeavor, the process to publication is something no writer can do alone. I'd like to thank all my betas for helping me polish my works. And I'd like to thank all my other readers (mostly family) that give me the confidence I need to keep pushing forward. You guys are the best.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-How to Cook Like a Kindergartner

Some of you may know (namely my children and husband) that I am not the best cook in the world.....or the nation.....or the state....okay, probably not even on my city block. When my 11 year old pulled out a cookbook her class had made in Kindergarten, I realized I had been going about this cooking thing all wrong. I thought I'd share a few recipes with you because my guess is that we've all been doing it wrong according to these five year olds.

Javan's Pumpkin Pie

First you get a pumpkin and mix it with 3 eggs. Then you cook it for 10 minutes at 10 degrees. Take it out of the oven.

(My oven doesn't have a setting for 10 degrees. Is this a problem?)

Wyatt's Big Noodles

Put the brown things in a pot with the noodles. You have to stir it around then you put the meat in it. Then you put vegetables and Ginja (the brown things) and hot pepper then stir it. Then there is one thing left then you put fish meat and noodles with Ginja. Cook it at 31 degrees for 49 hours. Then you get all the stuff out to eat with. Then you eat it with your mom and dad and grandpa and sister.

(I like how as part of this recipe we are told who it must be ate with. This is something lacking from all other recipes I have ever followed. I believe it could add a bit of interest to a recipe if we're told specifically who we can eat it with.)

Cody's Lucky Charms

First you grab out a bowl and then grab out a spoon and then grab out the cereal and then grab out the milk. Then pour 1 cup of cereal (Lucky Charms) in the bowl and then 1 cup milk in the bowl. Then you eat it.

(Cody, thank you so much. I looked all over the Lucky Charms box on how to make their cereal and it didn't tell me anywhere. I'm so happy to finally have the recipe)

Louie's Cheese Pizza

Go to the store and get pizza then you cook it in the oven for 10 minutes.

(LOL Louie is my kind of kid.)

I know this post might have been entirely too helpful today. After all, I just gave you three ideas for dinner. I'll work harder next week.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to me

I've gotten a few blog awards over the last week or so and I thought it would be appropriate to post them today--Like gifts to myself. And since it's Christmas and we all know it's better to give than to receive I thought I would even spread the love and pass them on to others as well (which technically I would do even if it wasn't Christmas because those are kind of the rules of blog awards but we'll pretend that I'm making a special exception for today and that I'm giving and selfless and stuff).

The first award I received was from the awesome Tamara Heiner. We met in the comments section of another blog (isn't it fun how that works) and she's great. This is the Honest Scrap Award which I'm supposed to pass to 10 people who I feel have honest blogs. Then I have to list 10 facts about myself.

I know it says 10, but since I have 3 awards today, I think I'll stick with 5 for this one. I pass this award to:

1. Julie Nelson because she is always letting us delve into her daily life, and her writing life, with her in an honest, fun way that I love.

2. Renee Collins because she is fun and honest in her feelings and experiences. I enjoy her.

3. Corey Swartz makes me laugh and always shares her straightforward opinions.

4. Christine Bryant has let us experience her road to publication in an honest and helpful way. She's also very supportive of others.

5. Jenn Johansson is one of my most favorite people. Her blog is just as fun as she is.

And I know it says 10 facts, but that's a lot, more than you'd ever want to know about me, so I'll share 5.

1. I love earrings. Big dangly ones.

2. I secretly dream about trying out for American Idol, but there are two big problems. (Yes, just two) One, I'm too old. And, two, I would be one of those contestants that Simon would look at and say, "You do know you're horrible, right?" I'd tell him I sound awesome when I sing in the shower only to have him point to the door while Randy is busy hiding his laughter. I'd have to slink away in shame swearing to the camera that if I hadn't been so nervous I could've been the next Kelly Clarkson. (Can you tell I'm excited for American Idol to start?)

3. And, relating to the confession above, I have the American Idol voting number memorized because unlike many people who say, "I'm a huge fan, but never vote." I admit that I least ten times per episode. I know, it's sad.

4. I don't shave my legs in the winter. (It normally isn't a big deal, I wear jeans everyday and then tall boots to church. But today I wanted to get a pedicure and I cursed myself for my laziness.)

5. When I was a kid I watched "The Sound of Music" everyday after school for a year. Every. Day. Yes, I still love it. And yes, I still know all the songs. I'm not quite so obsessed with it anymore, though.

The second award I got is from Shannon O'Donnell who is so sweet. I think this award might have been made just for her. But she decided to give it to me anyway. As part of this award I'm supposed to nominate 5 other blogs that find a silver lining even on those gray days.

Again, because I have so many awards today, I'll pick 2.

1. Tamika is constantly finding the positive in things and I often feel uplifted after reading her blog.

2. Elizabeth also has inspiring posts and makes me smile.

The third award I received is from Julie Nelson who makes me all kinds of happy. I know I mentioned her above, but I must say again, she's a fun read. If you haven't been to her blog yet, you should swing by.

The rules with this award are that I'm supposed to share a childhood reading memory and then pass it along to 5 other bloggers.

I feel very blessed because both my parents were avid readers. I would often go into their bedroom to find them both leaning against the headboard, side-by-side, reading lights on, quietly reading separate books. Most of my favorite reading memories from childhood include my father gathering all five of his children on his queen size bed while he read to us "The Hobbit" or "Lord of the Rings". I'm not sure how he got us all to sit still and listen, but I love him for it because he instilled in me a love of books as did my mother whom I rarely found without one.

Again, I will point out the amount of awards and share this one with only 1 (maybe I'm not as selfless and giving as I pointed out at the beginning of my post. That may be the case, but I think it has more to do with my laziness):

1. Patti Nelson is one of my favs. She's lots of fun and always has insightful posts.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

First off, I want to say that I've become a fan of the shorter book. This book was just under 200 pages and it was the perfect length. Could Gayle Forman have made it longer? I'm sure she could've. Did she need to? Not at all.

I enjoyed this book. I would rate it PG 13 due to language and some sexual content. Lately I've been reading books without reading their "blurbs" on the back cover, so I had no idea what this book was about. But I'd heard good things about it. So I was completely surprised when I realized what the premise of the book was. And now, lest I spoil it for you, I don't want to give a summary. But I will say, the plot kept me hooked, kept me guessing what was going to happen until the very last page. And (always the sign that I know I'm reading a good book) kept me up until 2am saying, "Just one more page."

I wish everyone Happy Holidays. I probably won't post again until next week, but who knows, sometimes I get a blogging bug. Especially, it seems, when I say I'm not going to post. Those are the times I always feel compelled to post. It's like me rebelling against my own statement. But now that I'm calling myself out on it, I probably won't. (Yes, I have these weird internal struggles with myself all the time. It's already been established that I'm a dork.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-Death to Elbows

Perhaps I shouldn't write a post after whacking my elbow not once, but twice in the same weekend. Perhaps I should let the memory of the horrible pain suffered die down a little before making emotionally charged statements like: Death to elbows everywhere. But who needs elbows, anyway? Sure they help us do small things like bend our arms so we can eat, drive, clean....function normally. But we can adapt. We can learn to work without them.

I submit that if we stop using our elbows, if we keep our arms perfectly straight at all times, we will never have to suffer whacking them at full speed into hard objects. And why, I ask, does whacking elbows (and toes) hurt more than hitting any other body part? Maybe instead of writing off my elbows altogether I can just have a layer of fat added to them. The same fat that seems to protect the rest of my body from similar pain. In fact, I have a few areas that have collected more than their fair share that could contribute to the cause.

I thought about taking a picture of my bruised elbow. Okay, I did take a picture of my elbow. But the lighting must've been a bit off because the image seemed to downplay the trauma of the actual event. The bruise appeared small and insignificant and wouldn't have backed up my argument to end elbow use. So just imagine, the largest bruise you've ever had and then double it. There, doesn't that support my advice to stop using your elbows and save yourself some future pain?

Speaking of the largest bruise you've ever had, I want to hear about it. How did it happen? This will be my entertainment for the week. (Plus it might make me feel less clumsy)

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Temperamental Blog

I started this blog about 15 months ago (You hear that, Blog, I made you and I can unmake you, never forget that). During those months I've been what I would call an obsessive comment checker. Yes, I love comments. They make me happy. Plus they give me something to do when taking a break from writing (or when taking a break from taking a break). So, I would guesstimate that out of the 16,000 or so hits shown on my counter thingy (to use the formal term) that 15,500 are me visiting myself.

Well, as of late, I've been thinking to myself: Really, Kasie, must you be so obsessive? My answer was: Most of the time yes, but perhaps not in this instance. So I decided to activate the device on my blog that sends me an email whenever I get a new comment. (Because we all know I obsessively check my email.)

At first the email notification worked perfectly. It told me whenever any of you left me a comment. It was brilliant. I began to wonder why I hadn't activated it months ago. The trips I made to my blog became much less frequent. I loved it. But then something strange started to happen. I would go to my blog and even though my email claimed I had no comments (this might prompt the question: If you had no comments then why were you visiting your blog? To that I answer: Leave me alone, okay? I can visit my blog whenever I want to. Maybe I was having trust issues with my blog. Maybe I suspected it was lying to me [and it was]) low and behold there would be one or two comments waiting to be read despite the claim otherwise. This went on for days (and is still going on). Sometimes my blog emailed me when I had a new comment. Sometimes it didn't. And then I found them. The missing emails. They were in my Spam folder. Spam?? They weren't all of your comments. Just a select few. And guess who was in that list? Me. Yes. When I would respond to your comments in my comments section, they ended up in my spam folder.

The only thing I can guess is that my blog is angry with me for my infrequent visits. I went from checking my blog every time I was online, to only checking on it a couple times a day. It's mad. But this still doesn't explain why it's putting some of your comments in the trash. Maybe it sorts them by which ones it likes the best. If you lack the right amount of flattery in your comment, you end up in the trash. I'm not sure. I'm analyzing this. But quite obviously, some of you are favored by my blog and others aren't (including me).

I just had a thought. Maybe it's my email that hates me for adding to its workload..........hmmmm. That reminds me of the time my email started sending blank messages. It's like it would erase them or something. I would craft beautiful messages and my email would send nothing. One of these blank emails ended up going to my agent to which she responded: ?

How embarrassing, huh?

I'm sorry, Blog, it's possible you have been wrongly accused. I'll let you and email fight it out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

Before I start my review, I just wanted to inform you that my blog is angry with me. I'm not alone, it is angry with some of you as well so at least I don't feel picked on. I will tell you how I know of its feelings on Friday. Yes, Friday. Today is review day, as spelled out by the schedule. We cannot upset the system or my blog might take out more of its anger on me.

So on to the review:

When I'm in the theatre and I see a preview for a movie I'd like to see that is based on a book, I will generally try to read the book before I see the movie. So when I saw the preview for The Lovely Bones a couple months ago and it sent shivers down my spine, I knew I had to read the book. And now, having read the book, I'm excited to see how it's been adapted for the big screen.

Even though the book is told through the eyes of a 14 year old girl, I would classify this as an adult book. Due to content and because she spends a lot of time observing her parents and their lives. Although, maybe I'm wrong. Is this considered YA? Does anybody know?

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was an interesting way to read about a murder. The end surprised me a bit because I felt like the climax we had built to through the whole book focused on an event I hadn't thought about once. And also when a super natural experience happens towards the end, it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief as I read it because up until that point the book seemed so realistic (as realistic as a story being told by a ghost can be). That said, I can see why it is a National bestseller: it was a compelling, creative story, that was well-crafted and strung together with excellent writing. We'll see if the movie lives up to the book.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-How to avoid overreacting

I share this experience to show you the way to deal with bad news in a mature manner. The main character in this story may or may not be me depending on how crazy she comes off.

I love the book store, I thought, trailing my finger over the spines of books as I walked toward the Middle Grade section at the back. My goal was to get a few Christmas gifts and avoid buying anything for myself. I slowed as I came to the Young Adult section. Beautiful Creatures (the book) stared at me from it's perch on the top shelf with the other featured titles. I picked it up, felt the weight of it in my hands. The blurb on the back promised an amazing story. No. I was not buying a book for me. Especially not one that was so thick and would make me useless for days when I had so much to do. I put it away and found the books that I had gone there for.

At the register, books in hand, I noticed signs with large-printed warnings: ALL SALES FINAL I furrowed my brow. "Has your return policy changed?" I asked the guy (I'll pretend like I don't know his name) behind the counter.

"No, we're closing."

I gasped. Really loud. I hadn't been informed of this decision. "W-What?"

He got an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry."

(Now is the time where if you want to avoid overreacting, and appear mature and in control, you would just pay for your books, say, "that's too bad" and back away from the counter. But I didn't do that, instead I said....)

"No. You can't close." I handed him my credit card.

"Well, they're keeping the big one at Riverpark open."

(Now, is really the time where if you want to avoid looking slightly crazy, you take the pen he is holding, sign the sales slip, and walk away with your purchase. It would definitely not be the time to....)

I stared at the pen blankly, my eyes starting to sting from not blinking. "But that's all the way across town."

"I know, I'm sorry."

(Just sign the slip.)

"But I come here like once a week. Really? You're closing?" I took the pen and as I signed I started to think: How can I keep this bookstore open? What would I have to do? My neighbor is a reporter for the news. Could he do a story on it?

"Yes, we're really closing." He set the bag down in front of me.

"But what if you do really well during Christmas. Then maybe you'll stay open....right?"



He looked past me to the customer who had walked up behind me. "Have a good day," he said, obviously trying to tell me to walk away.

(Don't say anything at this point. Just walk away.)

"Well, it won't be a good day now that I know my bookstore is closing," I mumbled.

On the drive home I thought about how I could open up my own bookstore. Really. I thought seriously about this. Then (and when I say "then" I mean about two days later) I realized that the only reason I would be opening said bookstore was so I could shop in it. I didn't think this was a good enough reason (not to mention these things cost money).

So, if you are ever faced with a similar situation. Try not to let your denial play out in front of the poor helpless worker who has no control over the situation. Wait until you're in the car, turn on a sad song about loss, and sing really loud (not that I did this).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Agent Appreciation Day

Kody Keplinger (author of The Duff, coming out next year) has decided to make today agent appreciation day. And since I have an agent--Kirsten Manges--and since I appreciate her, I thought I would be ungrateful not to jump on the appreciation bandwagon.

First, a song: She works hard for no money. So hard for it honey. She works hard for no money so you better treat her right.

Second, a statement: Yes, she knows I'm a dork and she still likes me. She even knows about the time I went to New York and stood in front of her office door like a crazy fangirl and took pictures. She said, and I quote: "Kasie, you're so funny." Wasn't that nice of her not to tell me what I really was?--A little bit weird and kind of nerdy. :) (For those of you who don't know, she was on maternity leave or I would've actually met her)

And finally, a tribute: My agent is the greatest. She loves my book and tells me. She is super smart and caught things in my story that no one else had. She's really good about keeping me updated and letting me know what's going on. I love that when there is a problem with my story, she gives me the overall problem, and leaves it up to me to figure out how to solve it. It shows me that she trusts me and my writing and helps me have that feeling of accomplishment when I do find the solution. It also makes me know that she's not trying to take over my story, but help make it the best it can be. She also encourages me and helps keep me motivated to write. I think I found the right agent for me and feel lucky to have her.

Thanks, Kirsten, you're the best!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Challenges and Awards

I've decided to do the 2010 Debut Author Challenge (because we all know how well I do at challenges). But, this one seems pretty easy. After all, I love to read (and I love any excuse to buy books) The rules are simple: Read at least 12 books by debut authors in 2010.

So here's my list (in order of when they debut [I think]):

*A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker
*Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
*The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
*Under my Skin by Judith Graves
*Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
*Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis
*Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler
*Northanger Alibi by Jenni James
*Other by Karen Kincy
*What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
*Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
*Anna and the Boy Masterpiece by Stephanie Perkins

I'm also looking forward to reading a lot of the sequels to series I started this year. But those don't count on this list because they aren't "debut".

And in other news. I won an award. :)

Or maybe I just received virtual flowers. Either way, someone likes me and her name is Julie Nelson. And I like her too. If you haven't been to her site, she's quite witty and always charming. So the rules are I have to write down seven things you don't know about me and then pass it on to seven bloggers.

Here goes:

1. The later it gets the more uninhibited I become. I generally get the most writing done at night. And I often write my blog posts late at night and set them to publish in the morning. For example, it is 11:30 pm right now. I'm feeling fairly silly. But I'm sure if you read back on some of my other posts you would be able to tell which ones I wrote past midnight and which ones I wrote when I woke up in the morning. I always thought it would be a fun experiment to write a book only utilizing the hours from when I wake to 10 am. But then I came to the conclusion that not only would it never get finished but it would probably be full of rude and/or boring characters (or they'd always be talking about sleeping). :)

2. I laugh really loud. Often times I've had people come up to me and say something to the effect of: "I knew you were here because I heard you laughing." It's kind of embarrassing and I've made several conscious efforts to be a quieter laugher, but it never works so I have given up.

3. I'm told that I snore when I sleep on my back, but I've never heard it so I doubt it's true.

4. When my husband and I got married we were gifted two desert tortoises (I made that sound as though it was part of the ceremony. It wasn't. They were just a unique wedding gift from a friend). We've had them for twelve years now and they are the best pets ever. They eat a head of lettuce three times a week, they hibernate all winter, and they don't shed or jump on me. (Don't kill me dog/cat lovers. I like to look at furry creatures. They're pretty. Occasionally I even like to pet them. But I don't make a good dog/cat owner. I'm low maintenance and I like my pets to be as well.)

5. This is probably something you already know about me, but: I'm fond of chocolate. Okay, it's more of an obsession. If I could live on only chocolate and still be healthy, I would.

6. I'm kind of a food wimp. If a food is spicy enough to make me cry or make my nose run, I steer clear of it. In fact, I don't understand the appeal of a food that gives you watery eyes and a runny nose. (I have a feeling I'm about to get a lot of comments defending spicy food)

7. I think Weird Al is funny. (Yes, he's still around) I watched his video "White and Nerdy" and laughed (loudly, of course) for days.

8. I like to break rules. That's why I have 8 facts and will only give this award to 3 people. It's a small act of rebellion that will keep me from a life of higher crimes like running yellow lights or writing graffiti on the back of bathroom stalls.

I bestow these lovely flowers upon.

1. Candice Kennington because she's my best friend and I noticed she had no awards on her blog. Plus I'd like to see if she can come up with something I don't know about her. :)

2. Mary because she is not only inspiring but she makes me laugh.

3. Shannon (whose blog I recently discovered) because she is super positive and I always smile when reading her posts.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-How to induce rage

I'm generally a pretty laid back person. Some might even go as far as to characterize me as "happy". There isn't much that angers or offends me. But there is one thing, that I discovered Saturday that really gets me upset. Let me set up the scene.

My husband and I have a pleasant afternoon Christmas shopping and end by stopping at the store to grab some chocolate (my house has been at dangerously low levels as of late). Of course, I buy a few boxes of Junior Mints. We come home and I stash them away for a movie we'll be watching later and take my two older girls to a Christmas concert they are performing in. After we get home and I settle onto the couch to watch a rare gem* of a movie, my husband brings me one of the boxes of Junior Mints. It is open and half gone. That act in and of itself is close to a crime in my house.

"They're open," I say. My voice sounds a little tight so I clear my throat.

"Oh, yeah," my husband says, shrugging his shoulders, "the boy* opened them."

"Really." I take a deep breath and tell myself it's okay to share. There are three boxes, after all.

"Yeah, I guess he was pretending they were bullets and throwing them at the girls."

So, if you want to make someone really angry (and why wouldn't you? especially this time of year) find something they love above all else and rip it from their hands, not to use it, but to smash it into pieces under your booted feet. That's all.

*rare gem=a movie nobody else has heard of and has probably gone straight to video but my husband thinks is going to be the best undiscovered movie in the universe. He usually presents these movies by saying: "Kasie, I have found a "rare gem" at the movie store. Will you give it at least 30 minutes?" This is how I know it is going to be REALLY bad. In our 12 years of marriage he has only found two movies that actually ended up being "rare gems".

*the boy=our only son. We really do call him "the boy". After three daughters we often say, "Come on girls" whenever we are leaving. We quickly have to add, "and the boy". So now we refer to him as "the boy" often. As in, "Have you seen the boy?" Or "What is the boy up to?"

Friday, December 4, 2009


If there is one thing I have learned in this industry it is that patience is a major part of it. For a while I was always in this big hurry. I had these ridiculous thoughts: If I don't finish this now and get it published the world of books along with the entire industry is going to crumble and my book won't have seen the light of day. If I don't hurry and find an agent someone else is going to think of my idea and it will be old and used. If my agent doesn't read this soon all the teenagers in the universe are going to stop reading and no publishers will want YA anymore.

Yeah, very productive thoughts. The thoughts and attitude actually led to a very unhealthy, obsessive writing schedule. I remember times when I'd stay up way past midnight only to wake up at first light. If I didn't get my book out of my head I'd forget it, I would reason.

It didn't help that once other people learned I was a writer their first question was: Really? What do you have published? OR Cool. When is your book getting published?

I've come a long way since those early days. Most of it was forced by circumstances out of my control. Once I was waiting on someone else's action, I no longer had the control that was keeping me obsessed. I could stress and check my email and worry, but ultimately I could do nothing but wait. And in waiting I have learned peace. I have learned that it's okay to step away from everything, to slow down. It's okay to take my time writing. I don't forget my story. And sometimes letting it simmer for a while presents new plot points and solutions.

I've learned that writing is not a race but an event. It is something, like eating, that must be done and when I take the time to savor it, I enjoy it. When I enjoy the act, I don't think about the outcome as much. I really do love to write and I'm glad that I have learned that as in many aspects of life, patience is definitely a virtue needed in this industry.

If you're new to the writing world, know that there is no such thing as overnight success in this industry. And if you aren't new, I'm sure you've learned, like I have, that waiting is just part of the process.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

Since I liked Sarah Dessen's book I read back in October, I thought I'd give another one a shot. Although Sarah can be a bit wordy sometimes and does this odd backstory thing that I thought was just a one book thing but is apparently her style, I really do enjoy her stories. She has a way with emotions that I envy. She always has me feeling strongly whatever emotion her character is feeling. There was a part in this book that I had a lump in my throat for three or four chapters. There were other parts where I felt indignant in the character's behalf. It just drives home the point that you don't have to tell your reader how to feel by having your character describe each and every one of their emotions. You just have to let the story play out. The emotions will naturally come.

This story, like the one I read before, is about relationships. Not just the girl meets boy relationship, but mother/daughter, father/daughter, sisters, friends. They're all there and they're all developed beautifully. If you want lesson on how to develop a relationship so that it seems natural and real, Sarah Dessen is a great teacher.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-How to make sure there are no Thanksgiving leftovers

I love Thanksgiving. No holiday can rival it in the food department (although Christmas comes close). And there is no other time of year when it is perfectly acceptable, in fact normal, to make a complete pig of yourself. My family has taken gluttony to a new level, though (well, actually, I shouldn't blame the whole family when my husband started this). We've turned eating into a sport, a competition really, complete with cash prizes. What are the rules, you ask? It's simple. We have a pre-meal weigh-in and then a post-meal weigh-in. Whoever gains the most weight is the winner.

It's quite a sight: the teenagers involved in this competition. They pound the potatoes. They down glass after glass of water. They periodically weigh themselves to see how their efforts are paying off. Three platefuls each of dinner and several pieces of pie later, the weigh in takes place. The winner this year, my adorable 15 year old niece (who won against her boy cousins and brother), gained 5.8 pounds! :) And in second place was my super skinny sister in law (go girls!) with 5.2 pounds. It's craziness.

But, you can imagine the aftermath of such an event. If you can't, let me spell it out for you. Bodies sprawled on the floor, lain across couches, or draped over chairs. Hands gripping sore stomachs. And the air is filled with a low, incessant moaning. Ah, Thanksgiving, I love it!

But, really, I am grateful for all that I've been blessed with. A supportive husband, wonderful children, amazing friends, and the opportunity to do something I love on a daily basis--write.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

So I'm in Utah and I didn't think I'd be able to do my normal Wednesday review. But I got to talking with my sister in law (whose home we are staying in) and she asked if I'd read the Percy Jackson series. I told her I hadn't but I wanted to before the movie came out because it looked really good. Then she said, I have that series if you want to start it. And of course I did so I followed her downstairs. Now, normally she leads me into the office which has a wall of bookcases. I'm usually awestruck as I stare at her vast collection of books. I search through them for a long time and come away with a handful to borrow. But instead of turning left at the bottom of the stairs she turned right. I hid my confusion and followed her back to a room I hadn't been to in years. And along the back wall was a massive bookcase FULL of YA and MG books. I gasped.

"Let's see," she said, "it's in here somewhere."

My eyes took everything in. "Why haven't you ever shown me THIS bookcase before?" I asked.

"Oh, I thought you knew it was here."

"Uh, no!"

I was so happy. It was like my very own library full of my kind of books. Turns out she had loaned the first book in the Percy Jackson series to someone else. Though I was a little disappointed, I couldn't be for long with so many other books to choose from. So, I chose the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and was able to read Uglies yesterday.

It wasn't at all what I had expected, but I enjoyed it very much. I would highly recommend it. It's very creative and kept me reading all day. It's also very clean. I moved on to Pretties today. It's been a while since I read a series where all the books were already out so I'm excited I won't have to wait to finish all the books.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-Housecleaning 101

Well, as you can all see by my little progress bar on the side, I am an excellent housekeeper. Cleaning is my motto. So I thought it only right to give those of you who may not be as efficient or accomplished in the art of cleaning as I am, some good advice, things I've learned over this past month.

1. Why do now what you can put off until tomorrow? Seriously, if it's not going to grow legs and walk away, then it will still be there for you to pick up tomorrow. We all know that nobody else in the house will pick it up.

2. A layer of dust protects your nice wood from the harsh elements of the world. You wouldn't want to wipe away protection, would you?

3. Speaking of dust, if you leave it on your ceiling fans, then when summer rolls around again it is like a magical surprise for the children when the fans are turned on again. Like a pretty shower of dirty snow for all to enjoy and revel in--Christmas in the summer. It will be a scene your children will remember for ages.

4. Throwing away toys makes it so much easier the next time you have to pick up.

5. Bleach is our friend.

6. Favorite cleaning tool: Mr Clean Magic Eraser

7. Bribery even works on adults.

8. A clean house is overrated. I'd much rather be .... doing anything in the universe, even working out.

Okay, so I'm writing this post from out of town. I'm on vacation for the rest of the month so it looks like my NaHo is stopping at the whopping number of 1920. When I made the goal of 5000 I thought it would be close to attainable. Even though I didn't make it even half way, I did learn a couple things about myself. The first is that I really do hate to clean, which contradicts the second thing I learned which is that I love it when my house is clean. Can somebody tell me how I can have a clean house without having to clean? The other thing I learned is that I like a little healthy competition. When my friend, Linda, was beating me (which was often) it really did motivate me to do more. Thanks for that, Linda. And for those of you who aren't out of town and still participating, keep it up! Even though I accomplished less than half of my goal, my house looked awesome before I left.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

I guess, that should read Wednesday Review, not Reviews, but I like nothing if not consistency. That's not true, it just sounded good. My point is, I was only able to read one book this week. Mainly because the great highlighting edit of 2009 that took place this last week. Good news in that front is that I've definitely pinpointed the probably (well, actually, I highlighted it, but again, pinpointed sounded much better) and am now working through edits. In the mean time, my other book, the one that landed me my agent in the first place, is going to spread its wings and get sent into the world very soon. (I keep saying that, but this time it's really going to happen because I'm done shoving other books into my agent's inbox)

Anyway, on to the title of my post. My review. This week I read the book "Eyes Like Stars"

First of all, isn't that the cutest title ever? And I love the cover of the book. This book and I had a love/hate relationship. The "hate" portion was my fault and I will explain that momentarily, but let me tell you about the love portion. This book was not only charming in its prose and characterizations, but the idea was amazing. It was different than anything I have ever read. Let me quote a little from the blurb on the sleeve: "Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts." Lisa Mantchev not only takes you into the life of the theatre with her plot, but with how she crafts every sentence. Every line, from the dialogue to how she describes the characters speaking and moving, is like a line out of a play. I was entranced.

Now to the hate part (which is my fault). I had this longing as I read to know more about the plays she had as her "stars". Hamlet, for example, should be a play I'm familiar with, but I'm sad to say that I've never even seen the movie. So some of the lines in the book that I'm sure I should've easily understood, left me confused or grasping for meaning. As a result, sometimes I felt very distanced from the book because of my lack of knowledge in Shakespeare's plays. That's not to say you wouldn't enjoy this book if you haven't read Shakespeare. Because obviously, I enjoyed it with only a basic knowledge of Shakespeare. But I think you would appreciate her book even more (which is what I sensed as I read) if you had a love and knowledge of Shakespeare's works. So the "hate" part came when I berated myself multiple times for being such an ignoramus. I sense I will be punishing myself soon by assigning myself Hamlet to read. (It's possible I read it in High School, but like many things in High School, I have since forgotten)

Okay, my head is pounding with the cold that has been lingering around my house for the last month that I have finally caught. Plus, I have to clean for company that will be staying at my house even though I will be out of town.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-Surviving a supernatural attack

This Thursday night millions of teenagers, moms, and other obsessed fans of the Twilight Saga will be lining up at theaters around the nation to watch New Moon (me included). It will be cold and dark out. Excitement will abound with its tell-tale signs of fast beating hearts, veins near bursting, and sweat-covered palms. The salty smell of this sweat and extra blood will hang thick in the air.

You might be thinking, 'oh no, the vampires are going to be out in full force.' You'd be thinking wrong. The vampires will all be in a vampire council trying to figure out how to prevent vampires from falling in love with accident prone humans. What we should really be worried about are the werewolves.

You see, they're angsty and always hungry (a lethal combination). And since I doubt anyone out there has their own personal vampire guardian, we need to know how to survive in that line since we wouldn't want to miss the movie we've been waiting a year for.

It's possible you've been getting conflicting messages in your YA literature as of late. One book tells us that the tiniest drop of werewolf saliva finding it's way into the bloodstream will turn us into a werewolf. Another book tells us we have to actually be bitten to be turned. And this is all if we actually survive the attack, which is unlikely.

Let's refer to the bible of werewolves, the Twilight Saga, to find the answer about being turned. Oh, phew, it looks like we can only be werewolves if it's in our genes. We've dodged a bullet there. If we're getting turned into something supernatural anytime soon, it better be a sultry vampire who does the turning.

(They'll do [btw, Ian, if you're reading this (and why wouldn't you be?), I loved you on Lost, where they killed you off entirely too early, and I'm glad you've come back to TV in such an evil way])

Okay, but this doesn't solve the real issue--an attack by a werewolf that could end in death (and keep us from seeing the movie). So, it looks like the moon will be a waning crescent on Thursday night. That would be good news if werewolves cared about moon cycles, which obviously they don't. So what now? If any of you have a baby that they could imprint on, that could work. I don't so I'm out of luck there. If you have brown eyes, you could be in better shape. Mine are blue. Hmm, I'm running out of solutions here. I could try flirting (it worked for Bella) but I'm out of practice. I should've thought to befriend someone who had the potential of becoming a werewolf so he could protect me from his friends, but it's a little late now. Maybe some of you thought ahead on that one.

It looks like I have no good advice for you. We can only hope that the attack will come after we've seen the movie and our lives are complete.

I would love to hear your advice on how to survive this imminent attack.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Edit and A Bar of Soap

Yesterday was a very low day for me. I got a long awaited email from my agent about a book of mine she'd been reading. This was my most recent book and therefore the one I am the most in love with right now. It was the one that was going to get me published and be awesome. Well, guess what? She didn't like it very much. This in and of itself is a good excuse for being bummed, but what got me down even more was the reason she didn't like it. She said she didn't like the narrative voice because I was telling too much instead of showing.

WHAT??? That's like writing 101. That's something I had never had much of a problem with even when I first started writing. I was telling instead of showing? It shocked and embarrassed me. Plus, it wasn't something I could easily fix. It wasn't a plot hole I could patch up or a scene that didn't make sense. This was major. In my mind it meant a total rewrite. I was sooooo depressed. So what did I do? Well, after pouting for a while, I marched to my kids' bathroom.

Why? you ask. A few days ago my son had flushed a bar of soap down the toilet and it was clogged. My husband had been bugging me to call the maintenance guy (because it was really stuck), but I had been resisting. I didn't want to call the maintenance guy, I was embarrassed. Last year he had replaced two toilets and had subsequently been back to unclog them not once, but twice because of this same issue (not a bar of soap, but other items flushed by the boy). I didn't want him looking at me and saying: Why haven't you gotten toilet locks or locked your bathroom doors. I didn't want to have to explain to him it was because we were potty training now and I had to leave toilets open for the potty emergencies.

So anyway, I marched into the bathroom because I needed to unclog that toilet. I needed to have a feeling of success for the day because I was feeling so crappy. I must've spent thirty minutes in there with that stupid toilet snake and that stupid plunger. All for nothing.

I threw myself onto my bed. "I can't write a book or unclog a stupid toilet!" I whined. I think my husband thought I was nuts.

When I got over feeling sorry for myself, a thought came to me. I needed to highlight my entire book into sections. Green for dialogue, Gray for action, Purple for inner thoughts, Yellow for description, and Teal for narrative. It gave me a purpose. I sat down, determined. I reached page 120 last night (highlighting an entire book is a lot of work). And guess what I discovered? The teal sections need to go. They are the sections where I am "telling" the reader about my world. I need to either change them into dialogue scenes where I convey the same information or I need to cut them altogether. I also realized I can reduce the purple sections as well. My favorite sections were the gray and green. I wouldn't have to rewrite my entire book after all. It's still good. I still love my book. This edit is only going to make it stronger.

I was so happy and rejuvenated when I woke up this morning that I thought maybe I'd give the toilet another go. I wound that metal snake down there with confidence and determination. And I unclogged it! An entire bar of soap was yanked from the clutches of the toilet by the toilet snake. An entire bar of soap. So I can write a book and unclog a toilet! Wahoo!

Back to editing for me. This highlighting is so eye opening that I might start doing it for all my books. (by the way, my agent rocks!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

This week in reading I get to review all the books I read because I liked them all. I went through a few books in the last month that I wasn't too fond of. I was beginning to worry that I was just being critical because I'm a writer now and that I'd never be able to sit back and read a book again without analyzing it to death. But I realized this week that was not the case. As long as the book is really good, I have no problem relaxing while I read. :)

I'm going to be honest, I almost put this book down when I was fifty pages in. I was doing what I complained about above: analyzing every page, every sentence. I didn't like the style it was written in. And it wasn't even the fact that it was narrated by Death. It was just that Death kept interrupting himself and he was driving me nuts. I wanted to say, 'just tell me the story Death and stop trying to point out what you think I need to learn from it or the things I need to focus on.' BUT, like I said at the beginning, if I had felt that way through the whole book, I wouldn't be reviewing it now. As the book progressed and I got used to Death's ways, I was immersed in this heartbreaking story. It's about a German girl who grows up in Nazi Germany. This story is heartbreaking on so many levels so if you read it, get ready for some strong emotions. In fact, Death kept preparing me for future events and what I thought at first was an annoying way of telling me the future actually ended up being my life saver. Apparently Death knew that in this story he needed to soften the blow. (So Markus Zusak, you are a genius)

After The Book Thief, I needed something a little lighter. (I think anything I read would've been lighter) And my friend Natalie recommended this series by Kelley Armstrong. I loved these. There are only two of the three out right now. The third comes out May 1st.

Book one is about a fifteen year old girl who discovers she can see ghosts. She is put in a group home to get help with her "mental problem". There she discovers all sorts of cool things. (Okay, that was a really bad summary, but I don't want to give anything away.)

Thank goodness I had book two on hand because I wanted it immediately after finishing one. This book kept me up until 2am Sunday night. I kept telling myself to go to bed and then kept saying, just one more chapter. So finally I made myself stop reading and then lay there not sleeping. The longer I didn't sleep the more I thought about the fact that if my brain wouldn't let me sleep, I might as well be reading. But, I forced my brain into submission and finally got some sleep. Anyway, the point? Very good.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-Teaching Independence

One of my son's favorite television shows is Max and Ruby. Perhaps you have heard of it. It's based on a book series about a rambunctious three year old bunny and his older sister--the ever responsible seven year old who is trying to keep him out of trouble. On a side note: I believe Max is my son's personal mentor on new ways to get into trouble. Anyway, I've noticed before that there are no parents in this cartoon. Occasionally the grandma comes to visit and sometimes the "bunny scout leader" is around. I thought at first that the parents were in the background. Like in the other room or something while the kids played (like the non-speaking parents in Charlie Brown). But the other day, when Ruby, you know, the responsible SEVEN year old was putting Max to bed and he kept getting up, I realized the parents are never around.

Are they working all the time? Did they go to Mr. McGregor's to bring back some dinner and never came home? Are they busy with their hundred other children? Where are the parents?

Maybe it's different in bunny families. Maybe children are independent at the age of seven. I realized this was a great teaching moment for my children. "Wow, look at that seven year old. She puts her little brother to bed, makes dinner, plays with him, and keeps the house clean." I think my subtle messages are working. By the end of the year my children will be ready to move out and get a job (or at the very least pick up after themselves).

Friday, November 6, 2009


This story starts on my birthday. I was sitting in the car next to Candi. We were driving to Cincinnati. She was mentally preparing me for a statue we were about to see on the side of the freeway when a horrible realization entered my mind. I gasped and grabbed hold of her arm. On a side note: gasping and grabbing someone's arm while they are driving is not a smart thing to do. Thankfully she didn't swerve off the road and end us in a fiery explosion. Anyway, the realization I had was that my license expired that day as I was sitting in Ohio. I gasped because I was certain I wouldn't be able to fly home, especially because the airports were in a code orange (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds ominous). Well, the rest of that story is for another post. The bottom line is that I made it home and, of course, had to make a trip to the DMV. And that visit is where this story takes place.

So I'm sitting there with my two-year-old son, waiting for my number to be called and knowing I was in for a long wait. My son was getting bored and started rifling through my purse. He found my digital camera. I didn't think it was a big deal at first to let him play with it. Not until, that is, he started aiming it at the man sitting two seats down from us. "Don't point it at people," I told him.

"But I want to," he whined.

At this point, the man looked over and said, "He can take my picture." (This was a statement that after five minutes, he probably wished he never made)

My son took no less than twenty pictures of this poor man. The blinding flash probably made him see stars. Each picture he had to personally show the man, who pretended to be excited. He truly was a good sport, but after picture twenty I was feeling more than embarrassed. Finally, I pried the camera from my son's little hands and shoved it into my purse. He cried and cried. Then he went to my purse and started searching for it. He immediately stopped crying when he spotted something else. Pulling them from my purse he screamed, "Look, it's my underwear," and promptly showed them to the man.

I will include some pics of the man so you can see the extent of my embarrassment:

Oh, and the statue I saw on the side of the road with Candi:

It's HUGE. Now you see why she had to mentally prepare me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

When I was visiting Candi in Ohio, I mentioned that we saw a charming (and perhaps a little creepy) movie by the name of The Vampire's Assistant. I enjoyed it so much that after watching the movie we went to the book store and I decided to buy the books. The movie is based on the first three books in the series and comes in a large volume bearing the same name as the movie. The boy who plays Darren in the movie is adorable. He was such a good actor. The movie definitely has the correct rating--PG 13. It has some disturbing elements (after all it's about a freak show as well as vampires).

The books, however, (at least the first 3) I've already let my 11 year old start reading. I really enjoyed them. They are middle grade, but I liked them a lot. I've recently started writing a middle grade novel, so reading these books came at a good time for me.

The first book introduces us to the world of the Cirque Du Freak. It's full of bizarre and freakish characters. And Darren with his subtly reckless personality gets into some big trouble.

Book 2 is all about Darren's struggle trying to come to terms with a life he wouldn't have chosen for himself. He's faced with some tough choices that bring moments of both tension and heartbreak.

In Book 3 Darren is fully immersed in his new life and taking control of that life. He's more deliberate and growing as a character. And we're introduced to many new facts about the world the author has built.

Like I said, I enjoyed the books. They do have a bit of violence, blood, gore, and freakish elements. So if your children are on the squeamish side, these books might not be for them. And again, I don't know how the series progresses after book 3, but I'm excited to find out. The books were quite a bit different from the movie too. They had the same premise, but not the same way of illustrating the elements of the world or of the characters. It did have the same general feel, though.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-Traumatizing Children

Imagine if you will a family (mine) gathered together on a Monday night watching a film that talks of the "hidden dangers" in the world. To illustrate the point a metaphor of a crocodile hiding in various mud-filled watering holes is used. My 2 year old squeals with delight when he sees the crocodile (he loves crocodiles). "Look, mom, it's a crocodile!" The narrator's voice is calm and soothing while various animals drink from the water. Most are skittish, always looking around, always wary of the dangers lurking. The crocodile is creeping ever closer. My son is giggling. I'm smiling because it's such a fun, nature-filled video that the kids are enjoying. Then a family of elk begin drinking and the crocodile is moving in, the narrator's voice is even calmer, one by one the family of elk see the crocodile and pull away from the water. The only one left is the smaller one and SNAP the crocodile grabs him and pulls him into the water. I jump. My son's smile vanishes, replaced by a wide open mouth. My head whips towards my husband (who has seen the video and thought the kids would enjoy it). My son begins screaming, "SCARY CROCODILE!" My husband says, "Oh, uh, yeah, didn't think about the fact that it would scare him." Big tears are streaming down my son's face as he continues to whimper, "bad crocodile."

So, if you were wondering how to traumatize a two-year old, this works well. I can loan you the video. Or how about you just show up to the church Halloween party dressed like this:

That works too. Several children wouldn't get out of their cars when they saw Jared dressed like this. It doesn't help that he's 6'8" . He looked like death walking.

What about you? Have you traumatized any children lately? I'd love to hear how you do it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

No NaNo for me, but how about....

Okay, so first of all, Happy Halloween. I love this holiday. Endless amounts of candy accompanied by creatures from the crypt just makes me smile. If you want to attend a rockin' Halloween blog party, head on over to my friend Natalie's blog. I'll be in and out of her party all day, I'm sure.

Now, onto business. I'm not doing Nano. Why? Because I don't need to be more obsessive about writing than I already am. If anything I need a contest that helps me become less obsessed. My friend, Linda, was discussing this same thought on her blog and we decided that if there were a contest that forced us to clean house instead of write, we would be inclined to participate. Well, we thought, why not make one? Tricia jumped on this bandwagon as well. So for the month of November we will be participating in National Housecleaning Month (NaHoCleMo). If you'd like to join us in our quest to make our lives slightly more balanced (and clean) grab a widget (click on the one on the left sidebar to take you to the instructions of how to use) and join the party.

The Rules:

We will be working in minutes, not hours. I set my goal for 5,000 for the month (if this number sounds too easy for you, feel free to up your goal. It sounds like a mountain to me, especially since I'll be out of town for 10 days in November. If it sounds too hard, feel free to make it less. Just a goal is what we're looking for. Something that will help us get away from our computers for a little while and give our poor, neglected houses some attention).

*Laundry counts when it applies to folding, loading, or putting away, but not the actual washer/dryer cycle.

*Cleaning up after dinner preparation counts, as well as loading the dishwasher, and putting away dishes, but not the actual dishwasher running time.

*And of course every other house cleaning venture. (making beds, vacuuming, scrubbing tile [I'm reminding myself what cleaning is, I'm sure you already know])

You may not include in total minutes:

*Trips to the grocery store

*Baking goodies

*Eating (even though this might seem like a chore when in the midst of writing a chapter)

*Writing (of course does not count, shame on me for already wishing it did)

Sounds like fun, yeah? And for those of you participating in NaNo, good luck, I'm excited to track your progress.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Follow Friday

Last time I did follow friday, I featured my nemesis, Jessie (who I secretly think is awesome but don't tell her because we've vowed to plot each other's destruction for the remainder of our lives). So this time, I thought it only fitting, to feature my BFF, Candice. Candi recently switched from wordpress to blogspot and she's lacking in blog love.

What can I say about Candi? Well, she is my best friend so that alone should tell you a lot about her. Namely that she might be bordering on crazy and highly lacking in good judgement. But it also tells you that she's charitable and patient. :) This is a girl who is brave enough to turn around in a theatre and tell the scary thugs behind us to be quiet (and give them the stare down when they continue to talk) but who screams out loud at a scary preview in the theatre (so loud that the other patrons laughed). If you're lucky enough to have her as a beta, you'll know why I consider her my secret weapon in writing. And now I finally get to return the favor and read her first book--Wahoo! (It's soooo good). I could go on for multiple paragraphs of mushiness about how much I love this girl. But why not just hop on over to her blog and see for yourself. And while you're over there, give her a follow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wednesday Reviews

As I've said before, when I travel, I read. And since, once again, I had two full days of traveling, I got to read quite a bit. I read a few authors that have been around for a while but I have never read. I was kind of shocked, actually, when I realized I had never read anything by Shannon Hale. Nothing. So I picked up one of her more recent novels and got to work.

This was such a cute book. It's one of those that while you're reading you find yourself smiling a lot. Often I feel like a dork when I do this, especially on an airplane. But most of the time I don't care.

I also tried one of Sarah Dessen's books and was very entertained. Real life (and of course when I say "real life" I mean fictional) teen drama? I didn't realize it existed. I thought all teen books were fantasy these days. Just kidding, of course. I've just been reading (and writing) a lot of teen fantasy.

Sarah Dessen does a great job creating emotion in the reader without telling me how to feel. I had some very strong emotions as I read this book. And not one of them was one she told me I should be having. In other words, her character never said, "I am feeling very angry or frustrated right now." (or whatever other emotions she had me feeling) I'll definitely have to pick up another one of hers. She has quite a few.

And in other news, my agent is back! Was that the longest maternity leave you've ever had to wait through? Yeah, me too. So, now she's reading one of my other books that I asked her to (I couldn't decide which one to start submission with) and depending on which one she chooses, we should be going out into the world of publishers in the next few weeks. I'm excited.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice-How to embarrass yourself

I know you've been asking yourself lately: "How can I make a complete idiot out of myself? I know, I'll go to Kasie's blog to find out. I heard she's good at that." And you'd be right. I am excellent in the art of embarrassing myself. So here goes. I will help you start on your journey. First you have to develop a habit of trying to breathe and swallow simultaneously. It's quite a hard habit to develop, but once you get the hang of it, it comes quite naturally. Next you have to be sitting next to a complete stranger on an airplane and he has to ask you a question while you are taking a big gulp of water. Then you must breathe that big gulp of water into your lungs instead of swallowing it. Finally, you must choke and gag and cough on the water for five minutes. Your eyes will be pouring tears, your lungs will be burning, and the passenger next to you will have a concerned look on his face and ask you several times if you are okay. And voila, embarrassment for all involved.

I had the best weekend with Candi. We stayed up late every night talking. I read a few books (I'll review one or two of them on Wednesday), we made a trip to Cincinnati, went shopping, played Settlers, and saw a movie (the Vampire's Assistant--very good). It was awesome. I'm missing her already.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Because I'm suddenly responsible

You shouldn't be reading this because technically I shouldn't be writing this. You see, I'm out of town right now. Specifically in O-hi-O. Yes, today is my birthday (well, not today for me, because I'm writing this Wednesday night, but today for you because you're reading this Friday morning) and for my birthday my husband (the most fantastical husband in the world) sent me to see my best friend, Candice, in Ohio (I'm sure I'm freezing by now, but incredibly happy).

Exactly a month ago today I made a goal to write on my blog 3 times a week. (This goal was made after the much less desirable and therefore immediately broken goal of giving up chocolate.) Well, guess what? I've done it. I have made it four weeks of writing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I'm guessing it's because I'm much older and wiser now and have suddenly turned responsible. You see, the old me would've said, 'I'm going out of town to party for my birthday. I don't need to write on my blog. What's one missed Friday?' The new me says, 'There is nothing wrong with scheduling a post to keep my goals.' Wow, the new me sounds a little boring. Okay, I take that back, the new me says, 'I've learned how to send posts into the future. I must make use of this awesome skill.' Better. So here's to celebrating my new found sense of goal making and keeping (actually, I think I'm about maxed-out with the one goal so no need to add any more) and my birthday! Wahoo!

Have a great weekend. Send warm thoughts my way because this California girl hasn't seen fifty degrees in a long time. (Do you think it will be colder than fifty because I don't even own a real coat?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reviews and Awards

I love to read. I've been reading sooooooooo much lately. I think the lady at the bookstore knows my name. The three I've read in the last two weeks are:

Loved this book. Scott Westerfeld builds an amazing world that I adored. His characters are pretty awesome too. Beware, though, the ending is less of an ending and more of a cutting off point. When I was done I shook my fist at the sky, cursing myself for not waiting until the second book came out to read this one. But I will definitely be the first one in line to buy that second one.

Ah, Brandon Sanderson, you have sucked me into your world. I bought this book originally because I'll be attending a conference in February in which he will be the key speaker. I wanted to listen to him, having read him. I was not disappointed. This is a book for those who truly love deep fantasy. His world is intricate and detailed. I loved trying to figure out the complexities of it. He threw in a really good twist that I didn't see coming as well. Now that I've read him I'm very excited to go to the conference.

And last, but not least, James Dashner's latest. I would say that the target audience for this book is middle grade boys. But, that being said, I was highly entertained. It kept me engaged and guessing. I loved the concept and I'm curious to see how it's going to go forward in the next book.

In other news, I got a lovely award from the awesome Jade.

-Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
-Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
-Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
-Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
-Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Since you all know that I live on the edge and like to break rules in any form they come. I am picking only 2 people for this award. I know, you're all shocked at my nerves of steel. I generally like to pick the newest blogs that I have discovered, so why break tradition. :) Those two would be:

*The ever inspiring: Tamika
*The adorable: Melane (I noticed you recently got an award, Melane, so feel free to wait until next week to post this [or break all the rules and don't post it at all]). :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice--Too many toys?

Jenn asked me, How many toys are too many? And my answer/advice to that is: one. That's right, one toy is one too many. I remember back when I was a kid my mother used to hand me a length of string and a hanger and I'd play with it for hours. Eventually I invented the first rough antenna for television sets. (What's that? Sorry, my husband is screaming from the background telling me that didn't really happen. Now, where was I. Right my inventing years) Sometimes she would just tell me to run outside and play. I didn't need fancy "toys" or new fangled "video gaming systems" (Sorry, my husband is now trying to tell me that I was the queen of tetris and super mario brothers growing up. I have no idea what he's talking about.)

So, Jenn, my advice to you is throw away all your kids' toys and stock up on wire hangers and balls of string. It will stoke their creativity. Just be careful that they don't poke their eyes out or anything.

Perhaps this isn't exactly true advice. But, according to my daughter, I grew up in a generation where things such as "playing with toys" and "learning" hadn't been invented yet. A few weeks ago as we were sitting around the dinner table after the kids' first day of school my husband asked her what she learned. "Oh, you wouldn't understand," she said, "we learn much harder things in school than you did growing up." Without missing a beat my husband said, "But I aced hole digging one oh one, what could you possibly be learning that's harder than that?" Then, of course, we both went on to name all the classes we'd done very well in. "Gardening", "sharpening pencils", "Breathing". By the time we were done, my daughter was rolling her eyes, apparently convinced we were even stupider than she gave us credit for. It's fun to annoy your children isn't it?

(Anyway, I better go hide the millions of toys in my house in case Jenn comes to visit.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

My adorable son

I have been trying to capture this on video for weeks now. My son loves this song. Every time it comes on in the car he sings it. When he listens to my ipod he wants me to find this song. Nobody is allowed to sing it with him either. If my daughters try to sing it, he screams at them until they stop. It is his song. :) So, indulge a proud mother for a moment and pretend like you think this is as adorable as I do. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Squidward can't make Krabby Patties

So I'm sitting on the couch folding laundry while my children are watching Spongebob (I know, not exactly educational programming, but hey, it makes me laugh). It was the episode where Spongebob and Squidward are competing for employee of the month. Towards the end of the episode as the two are doing crazier and crazier things to try to get Mr. Krabs attention, Squidward starts frying up Krabby Patties. My eight year old daughter, who is sitting next to me mutters under her breath, "I thought Squidward couldn't make Krabby Patties."

There are two lessons I learned from her indignation. One, my kids watch way too much Spongebob. And, two, your characters have to stay true to themselves no matter what situation you put them in. If you've already established that your character cannot do something, you can't have them doing it in another chapter/scene/book just to prove a point. Especially if you write for children or middle grade. Kids are smart and not as willing to overlook character breaches as adults are. My daughter helped reiterate a lesson I've heard a lot in writing-- My characters must always stay in character. Even if they're growing and changing, characters should each have a way they would handle change and growth. Now, Squidward, get behind the register and don't touch the grill unless you take a class that you will grumble your way through. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice--Potty training

Last week Jessie (my nemesis) asked for some advice on potty training. This is a great topic for me since I am in the midst of doing that very thing (and failing miserably).

The best way to start is to let your child pick out some big boy (or girl) underwear. Make sure they're printed with characters they like. When putting the underwear on your child, say things like, "Child, don't go potty on Spiderman, he doesn't like to get wet, it makes him sad." Isn't this a good idea? (Yeah, it doesn't work. Later, your child will just say, "Mommy, look, Spiderman is wet. Don't worry, he's still happy.")

Next, work up a good bribing system. Every time your child successfully goes, give them the predetermined bribe. (Unfortunately, stopping the bribe is hard so you may have to continue it for the remainder of his/her life.)

Finally, set a timer to remind yourself every hour or so, to take your child to the bathroom. This way you won't forget and they will start establishing a routine of trying to use the bathroom. (Soon, much like Pavlov's dog, whenever the timer goes off, your child will immediately go to the bathroom. So you might want a silent timer.)

You should make sure you go into potty training with the right attitude. There are a few things you should expect so you won't be disappointed:

*Expect to re-carpet your whole house when you are done potty training. You might need to take a side job to finance this (note: writing does not count. I was referring to a paying job). Lucky for me, we were already planning on recarpeting upstairs due to other little boy "accidents": Nail polish, sharpie marker, mascara, a whole tube of bright blue gel toothpaste, all do not go well with carpet. It's beginning to sound like I don't watch my child. In fact, my husband said it's "fourth child syndrome"--we just aren't as attentive with him as we have been with the others. When he suggested this, I gasped. "How dare you accuse me of this," I said. "I have been equally neglectful with all my children. He just gets into more stuff." If you weren't already planning to re-carpet and you don't want to have to, you might consider covering all surfaces in plastic.

*Expect that there will be casualties of war. Some underwear won't make it through the battle. So have plenty of backups.

*Expect that if you are potty training a boy he will soon learn that the toilet isn't the only thing that's fun to aim for. I discovered this the other day when my 3 daughters were running through the house screaming, while my son was chanting, "I'm gonna squirt you."

*And finally, expect that even though you might be ready, your child might not be. Or even though your child is ready, you might not be. All parties involved must be willing participants or it will end in disaster.

Jessie, good luck to you. If anyone else has more helpful advice than mine, feel free to share it. Or, feel free to share unhelpful advice as well (potty training disaster stories are always fun). That is the name of the post after all. :) And again, if you would like to be the recipient of my priceless advice, leave me a question. (Next week, Jenn's question is on the agenda)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Follow Friday

I had so much fun doing my "spotlights" after the retreat I attended in July, that I've been wanting to do this ever since: My own small scale version of Follow Friday. I'm going to be spotlighting some of my favorite people, or newly discovered (to me) people who, like me, don't have hundreds of followers. I thought it would be a fun way to share the love. Plus, once in a while, it's nice to take the attention off of myself (As in, once or twice a month. Let's not go crazy here, people, we all know how much I love talking about myself).

So for my first "Follow Friday" I wanted to tell you a little about the girl I love to hate. My nemesis, Jessie. First of all, I just want to say, I am so glad I found my nemesis. A lot of people go their whole lives searching for theirs only to die an utter failure having never met the person who ever gave them a reason to live. That reason being, plotting the destruction of this person, of course.

Many of you know Jessie. Yes, she's that super cute, super funny, amazingly nice girl. But hiding behind that awesome smile is the girl who finds it fun to oppose me. If I like something, she hates it. If I hate something, she loves it. For example (yes, Jessie, I have evidence) I love music, she never listens to it (I know, shocking). I find a guy with a little eye make-up attractive, she doesn't. She's not a fan of subways and I'm pretty sure she hates free hugs too (I've taken creative liberties with that last conclusion) But the nail in the coffin: she likes wax museums (Jessie, how could you?). (We will overlook the fact that she loves my favorite author, Dickens, was a drama geek in high school, like me, and is a stay-at-home mom. These facts would only detract from the nemesis rule, which states that your enemy must be your opposite.)

It's easy to see why she has been chosen as my nemesis, right? Unfortunately, we will now have to spend the remainder of our lives plotting each others destruction, but maybe once in a while we can take a break and do lunch or let our kids play (I'm sure there are loopholes in the nemesis rule book to allow for such frivolities).

So if you're not already, jump on over and follow Jessie's blog. But please know that I have already claimed her as my nemesis, so you can't steal her from me. And Jessie, I'm giving you an award. It is the "evil eye" award. You have reached official nemesis status. You probably shouldn't post it on your blog because then it will always be watching you. Mua ha ha ha (and, Jessie, don't fight me on this one, I really want to play the evil one, you're avi is way too cute to pull off evil.) Mua ha ha.

(Wow, that post ended up being mostly about me, didn't it? Funny how that worked out.)