Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Flood...

My stomach clenches every few minutes as I think of what to do tomorrow. A normal day would involve checking email, hanging with my family, writing, and thinking about cleaning. The last few days have been turmoil, fear, anxiety, confusion, a big bubble.

I wake up each morning thinking the river is closer, are they going to force us out? What can I pack? What don't I care about? Are my kids mentally OK.

Friday we had an email to come sandbag, our area would get some water. Saturday I sandbagged, and was told, your basement will flood. As more news kept coming, and each email kept giving worse information, I found myself in a neighborhood full of traffic with vans, trailers, storage pods, anything people could get their hands on to get out of the neighborhood. Were we being naive? Do we need to get out? By Monday, we realized "yes" pack it up, move what we can't get out to 2nd floor, try to seal what we can to avoid mold, and pray.

Today we managed to get a horse trailer and some friends and workers to help us. We have spent a ton of money trying to get the house prepped, and the flood hasn't even started yet. My legs ache from climbing stairs, and I feel like I was hit by a truck.  And we have no flood insurance because we weren't in a flood zone and were told not to get it.

The mental anguish is the worse, where to stay, what to do? We did find a place, it's a duplex and my parents are taking one half, we the other. It needs curtains, but at least we have space and won't be stuck in a hotel... though the pool and hot tub sound really good right now.

It's one thing to watch this on the news, it's a totally different fear to be here, in it. Your home is something you build up. Sure, it's just stuff, but you want to protect it.

The worst is my pets. I'll have to split them up since our place won't take pets. It tears me up. I try not to cry at all, but every so often it just starts. I'm scared, but grateful for amazing friends.

A big trailer just went by, full of sand probably. They are trying to build us a wall. Huge helicopters drop giant sand bags from the sky. Want to come visit me, you need an ID to get in, and will wait an hour or longer just to get through the line....

Here is one facebook pic:

I still need to get out my camera.

Thanks for reading. Don't feel bad for me. It's just stuff. But I thought I'd let you in my head.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Visit my Guest Blog Post!

Thank you to Chris Phillips for inviting me as his guest blogger! Please hop on over:


and learn about my musical habits! ;-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Divergent" -- And what a newbie author can learn about the first page

I first learned about "Divergent" (by debut author Veronica Roth) at a SCBWI conference where Molly O'Neil spoke. She spent an amazing day with us, breaking down how to build a character, and first pages.... She handed out a sheet with first paragraphs of books and what made them so great. I still have it. She included my favorite PB to read aloud, "I Stink," "Charlotte's Web," and "The Lightening Thief" as some of the many examples. She also included this book:

     "There is one mirror in my house."

First sentence. As a girl, I was drawn in. Only one mirror? I like my mirrors. What type of house is this, what type of people? But it gets more weird...

     "It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair."

Wow! I'm drawn in.. I want to know more about the factions. I want to know more about her. I'm....


I'm so hooked, that I eye the preview copy of the book lying in front of Molly, she let us come look at it. For a second, I thought about snagging it. I wanted more. I'm not into Dystopia, I'm more of a sunshine girl, but it was too late. It was like someone who knows they shouldn't go down a street, but something glimmering caught their eye, and they are curious. They need to know more, so they tiptoe in.

I bought the book once it came out, and it sat eyeing me as I waited for the right time to read it. I knew it was one of those books I'd inhale, so I needed a good block of uninterrupted time where I could ignore my husband, kids and any other responsibilities I'm supposed to have.

I picked it up. Kids were in bed, and my husband was not home... I started, I was pulled in... I read, pulled in, caught up, I was in heaven... until Chapter 7.

Chapter 7, I realize this is not my type of book. Someone died. There is danger. These aren't my people. I want pretty in pink people, I want Oompa Loompas, romance, talking rabbits. The pictures I see are dark and forbidden. I think of putting it down, but I'm


So I read on. Chapter 9 makes me really uncomfortable. I again think about putting it down. But the hero, I see some of me in the hero, a little bit. She is brave. I like to be brave, well, try to be. I'm often very giving, what would it be like to be brave? Why is she there? Does she really belong there... Oh, I can't put it down. I'll just skim over the black eyes and the blood (it's really not that bad if you like reading those things...and I think again how I'm one of the few who prefers unicorns pooping out rainbows to a good fight). But I have to know.

I read over 1/2 of the 487 pages that night, long after my husband got home. Way past my bedtime.

I was up early. I had to know. I read on... It got more violent, but it wasn't too descriptive at least, or I managed to skip over it, not sure... (the bad thing about reading is if you close your eyes, you can't ask someone what you missed.)

Finally, at 9:30 am, I finished. I was in awe. Had I known what it was really about and not read the first page, I'd not have read it. I'm glad I did. The little romance saved me from the violence, and the redemption and growth of character was fulfilling.

A book I'd never have read on my own, but did, just because of the first page being presented to me.


When my son is trying to decide what book to buy, I always just say, "read the first page, ignore the cover."

So now, I'm going to go and finish writing my Fantasy novel, and then go back and edit, edit, and edit, and perfect that first page so that you as the reader, want to read my book, even if it's not something that would normally draw you in. I can only hope to have a bit of the talent Veronica Roth has.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

"It's Almost Time"

Tick, tick, tick, tick....

"It's Almost Time" the book, still doesn't come out for 3 months! Ikes, how do authors do it. The anticipation! :-)

My editor told me, many months back, to just forget I even had a book coming out. But the closer the date comes, the more excited I get! And nervous. What if I get horrible reviews? What if no one buys it? What if I am a one-book-wonder? Will any stores or museums carry it?

So, I will push "It's Almost Time" out of my mind for today, and work on books of tomorrow....

Of course, I want to sent them out today, even though they are not ready. Except one, which is really good, but I'm waiting for a rejection from an agent I'd love to represent me. Tick, tick, tick..

Check back for more updates on "It's Almost Time."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Read: Books of Elsewhere.....

The Shadow

So I had the opportunity to hear Jacqueline West at SCBWI-Dakotas. And of course, I had to buy the book.

When I first heard about Jacqueline's book, I wanted to cry. See, I have been wanting to write a book about someone who jumps into pictures! And, I always wanted to use Linden Street in a book (I lived on Lindenwood and have very fond memories). She stole my idea!

But really, there was no way she could have, it's not like I blogged about it.  So I don't blame her, and think I could be friends with her if we lived nearby (though she'd probably run the other way). ;-)

OK, first check out the site:

Spooky, huh? It's her first books, AND she got a professionally designed website. Too cool. OK, I admit, I'm a little jealous.

I was going to pout and not read the books. I thought of it first, you know. But I couldn't help it. The cover was soo sparkly, and I really liked loved listening to Jacqueline speak. And she read us Chapter 4 aloud, and it included cats!  (So take notes when talking to groups, read Chapter 4, include cats)

It was a fun read! And I have to admit, I can't wait for the next one to come out! Olive's voice is perfect, Horatio, the cat, is totally in love with himself, and it's just spooky enough to make you want to close your eyes, but not too scary to give you nightmares....

She does a great job putting Olive in scenarios where you want to shout "Run! Be careful Olive! Don't do that!" And it's all done in a creepy old mansion, like the one you used to walk by growing up.... The one you always wanted to sneak into to see what lived there.... oooohhhhhhhhh......

So if you are looking for a good example of something a first time author wrote that went Gold, or if you just want something fun to read, or a great example of voice, try The Books of Elsewhere.
That's what books do, they take you.... Elsewhere!

I'm looking forward to Book 2!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Random Picture of a Cat / Endeavour Space Launch / and Character Development

First off, I'd like to start with a random picture of a cat:

This is Molly when she was just a little kitten
 OK, I came across that pic and had to share. She is much bigger, and brattier now. She came from a farm, and loves to explore the outdoors. One day I want to put a camera around her neck so I can see what she does when she goes hunting....

Now that I shared a random picture... did you watch the Shuttle Launch?

I had the live feed on. When I saw it was launching at 7:56, I realized my poor son would be on the bus. So I made a parenting decision to make my husband drive them to school, AND allow them to be a little late. There was something really intimate about watching all 3 of my boys sitting on the couch, watching the computer screen, listening to every word as the shuttle prepared for it's lift off. I joined them around take off, and we all had one of those special bonding moments you read about, or see in old TV movies.

Normally, I hate for my kids to be late. But I felt this was an experience you could really only experience as the clock ticked down. It was a character driven decision for me based on my son. It was really important to him to see this, and as a parent who wants what's best for my kids, I made a decision slightly out of character for me, but driven towards my love and his needs.

One thing I can't stand is when I read, or watch a movie, and a decision is so plot driven. The answer is so obvious, but yet, the characters do everything to step around it so the plot can move on.

Watch what you do, and others around you, in every day life to help you develop your own characters. And notice when you go out of character too, what causes you to do that, and what happens because of it.

That's all I have for now. I really hope you enjoyed my random picture.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

SCBWI-- South Dakota!

As a newer writer, I'm working on learning as much as I can to help me improve my personal writing, and know the field. I still have much to learn, and am thankful for all the opportunities!

Today I attended South Dakota's SCBWI conference. I highly recommend checking out your regional and state events. If you are serious about writing as a career, you need to attend.

Here are some of my notes.

Kerry Sparks, Agent

  • You need a really, really good hook AND
  • a short, quick sentence summing up your story.
  • For the Query, be professional. Explain your story in a few paragraphs. Tell a little about yourself. Be yourself. Remember the hook! Thank them for their time.
  • Know the agent you are sending your MS to. Research
  • Agents are looking for something unique. They must love the MS, because they have to believe in what they sell
  • You need to find an agent you trust, you become partners
  • It's OK to send to multiple agents

Chris Rylander, Author
He talked about what not to do:
  • Don't rush the process
  • Don't send an unfinished MS, or query one
  • Don't query if you don't have a MS in hand
  • Make sure you wait before sending it in. Nothing is great after the first draft
What to do:
  • Be obsessed and be persistent, ie: Don't give up, be excited about what you do, and do it!

Tips from the First Pages Critique, very helpful!

  • It needs to make you/editor want to read on...
  • Tension is GOOD
  • Take things one piece at a time, build your story
  • Use time elements and deadlines to create tension
  • Set up goals within your writing
  • Sound can be a good element
  • More conflict sooner!
  • Point of View is key
  • Don't be afraid to write your story 4 different ways
  • Interweave your backstory into the MS
  • Be specific, use nouns and verbs. Remove Adverbs

Emilia Rhodes, Asst. Editor, YA

  • Know the age you are writing for!
  • Know of comparable titles
  • Know your gender
Editors are looking for books that will sell. They use current books and the market to help them decide what to buy.

They love series! Built in audience.

What sells:
  • Realistic fiction
  • Forbidden fruits
  • Paranormal
New Trends:
  • Mermaids
  • Alternate universe
What doesn't sell:
  • Vampires, unless they introduce something new
  • Historical fiction
  • Books geared towards boys (Young Adult)
  • Robots
  • Read what's popular, even if you wouldn't read it normally
  • Connect with authors
  • Subscribe to author/writer newsletters
  • Pay attention to the trends around you, in TV and movies too

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why you should keep writing..

Everywhere you go, someone tells you "It's harder to become a published children's book writer then a professional athlete! You'll have a better chance of playing a lead in a movie then getting published. No one is buying picture books anymore..."

Yes, something negative around each corner. And it's good to know. But does it mean you should stop writing?


Yes, I am told over and over that less and less  (fewer and fewer?)picture books are being sold. But I sold one! And so have many people I know (thanks to networking). So if everyone gave up, well, then none would ever be written.

Here's the thing. Why do you write? Do you write to be sold? Probably. But if that is the first reason you write, well, then you probably are not very good. Your heart can't be in it, and good stories come from the heart and soul. A real writer has to write.

My son had a band concert last night. The flutist in the front row tapped her foot to the beat and was focused. She will go on and play and play. It was easy to see who the real musicians are. You could see it, music is in her. Even when she doesn't have a flute, I bet she makes music inside her head.

If you go around reading bio's, you'll see over and over, "I always wrote! I told stories! I loved to read!" Many of these begin at young ages.

See, I always wrote, literally, from the day I could hold a pen. I told stories, I acted them out, I forced my friends to act them out, and when I was old enough to babysit, I made productions from the kids I sat for. Yeah, I know, poor kids. But they had fun. I had to create and share stories.

As I was saying, you write because you love to write. So keep writing! You may have just that story that the world is looking for! And you'll never know if you don't try.

And if you are a true writer, nothing I say will stop you from creating stories. So really, this whole blog entry is pointless.

Pick up that pen!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One Day....

"I want to write a book that someone will want to read..." I said as I anxiously searched for a book I heard about at a writer's conference. I knew it was coming out, and the story reached something inside of me. The book is "Divergent" by Veronica Roth. I'll let you know how the read is. But as an author, my dream is to share fun stories that people want to read.

OK, I better get writing. I have a critique group deadline that I'm not ready for. The trip to Europe, catching up, selling books, and getting sick got in the way of my writing time. And of course I had to finish reading "The Clockwork Three" by Matthew Kirby. It was a nice read. I was able to pace myself reading it, but enjoyed it thoroughly. It leaves itself open nicely to wanting more, so I can see a sequel, but it was satisfying, like a nice piece of chocolate. It has three stories that weave themselves all together to create a nice masterpiece. I highly suggest it. It's not like most of the books. And I liked it because it wasn't one of those where you read it so fast to find out what happens that you miss the details. You want to watch it unfold, and not skip ahead. I haven't read one of those in a while.

And on the plane, I don't want to admit this, but I read "Something Borrowed" which is now becoming a movie.  I was kind of appalled as I could not relate to ever sleeping with my best friend's fiancee and then justifying it. Maybe I'm too much a goody, goody, but the objective of the book is to make you feel sorry for the main character and forgive her cheating. I guess I was even more turned off when I read someone's comment, "It made me feel better for my own affair!"  It was a totally enthralling smut novel that takes you into a journey most of us (I really hope none of us) would never venture on, and let you be a fly on a wall. I did enjoy the read and finished it, and I'll probably watch the movie secretly alone when it comes out on video. Don't tell anyone!  But I really do worry about what is happening in the world and where our own moral compasses are going. But that's what makes a good book, when you get to visit a world you wouldn't visit on a day to day basis. No one wants to read about why I can't make peanut butter sandwiches for my son's lunch anymore.

OK, off to write!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Scotland and the Literary Pub Tour

Our London trip ended with a train ride from Kings Cross train station through the beautiful lands into Scotland. It was stunning scenery from the fields of yellow flowers (actually canola fields) to the view of the seaside, and small little towns with ancient architecture.

We arrived at Edinburgh (the G is not hard) to find a man in a kilt waiting for us as we disembarked the train. He whisked us into a bus to see the city, which has way much more character then London!

From Edinburgh Castle, to legends and ghost stories... this town is known for it's literary influence, and I'm not just talking JK Rowlings.

Of course, the first night we went to the Elephant Room where she is known to have written some of Harry Potter. The coffee house has a great view of the castle, and really good food. Rumor has it she was kicked out of the Elephant Room for nursing her tea all day long. She also wrote at a place called Spoon, and Starbucks near the university (where we are told you can still find her).

Here is me sitting at the same table she wrote at.

After we ate, someone told my mom that JK got name inspirations for Harry Potter at the graveyard across the street, so we headed there. The story of Bobby the Dog (who was a devoted dog to his police chief owner and wouldn't leave his side, even after death) was a part of this graveyard. But I wanted to find the names. We found two. Of course, I only found Robert Riddell, though I'm told there is an actual Tom Riddell.

So that was entertaining.

Edinburgh was really green! We spent time walking the streets, visiting museums, eating, and of course shopping.  We didn't take a side trip out of the city, but when I go back I want to explore more of the Highlands.

There is an extinct volcano sort of in the middle of the city, well, right next to it, that acts as a large park. It was beautiful. The architecture there was a step back in history. The city was unchanged. The only thing new was the cars, and they were not overly abundant.

We also found some secret gardens and lots of dead people. :-)

The Literary Pub Walk was really cool. We found some signs for it, and you just showed up at this pub, and they took us up, up, up these stairs and into a small room. It was a walking performance filled with lecture, insight, opinion, beer if you chose (I don't drink) and readings from many of the famous authors who had ties to Edinburgh, including Stevenson, Dunbar, Ferguson, Burns and more.

Of course, being a book addict, I found a children's bookstore specializing in antique children's book. There I found a 100 year old copy of "The Princess and Curdie" which is the sequel to MacDonald's "Princess and the Goblins" which I happen to have an old copy of.
And on the last day we found an Usborne Books booth at an outdoor festival, which was a highlight for Randall, the president of Usborne Books and More. :-)

The people in Scotland were nicer then those in London, so that means really, really friendly. The town never slept!

If I was looking for a place to do a writing course abroad, I'd go here, where inspiration is plentiful on every corner.

But of course, it's always good to be home!

I'm Back! London.

I've been back a few days, and wanting to write, but jet lag and a newly caught cold have kept my coherent thoughts from finding a screen. :-)

London and Edinburgh will definately come out in ways in my writing, as they have that way about them. I'm going to break up the trip for your reading pleasure, starting with London.

All I can say is "WOW!"

First, let me start out by saying I am really lucky. I work in a business where I can earn trips all over the world. Thanks to Usborne Books I've travelled to Rome, Alaska, Hawaii, and now London and Edinburgh. (Just for doing something I love, which is encouraging reading).

I took my mom with me on the trip. We haven't had a trip since I was 16 and we went to New York for a Broadway and shopping spree, and it was fun. We didn't kill each other, but I'm glad to have my space now. :-)

London was amazing. You have to visit! Besides all the "royalty," the city just has class. It's so much older then the states. And everyone is really nice. London is a melting pot of tons of different cultures and people. It reminds me of "New York" but it's different.

I loved mastering the "tube," as a way to get all around the town. The double decker buses were fun too! And of course, the taxi was nothing like a taxi here. First, they are black, and very clean! You jump in and there is a ton of leg room. The seats are basically where the trunk is. On the back of the driver's seat are two chairs that pull down.

We saw a ton of things from palaces to castles, even street bums hanging out by London Bridge! But the city was CLEAN. And I mean CLEAN.

Of course we were there the week before the wedding, and they were decorating the town with flags. It didn't really affect us though.

I got to visit "The Globe" (which is a working theatre inspired by the Globe) and learned more about Shakespeare in that hour then I ever did in school, or by running the outdoor Shakespeare Co. Shakespeare is meant to perform outdoors, during the day. This was to save on lighting costs, as candles were pricey. It is written for many classes, which is one reason it is soo confusing. You have a sonnet for the Royals, and a crude joke for the working class. Admission cost 1/12 of one day's work, and that was to stand in the pit. The boxes were more expensive, and the seats behind the stage were the most important because you were there to be seen, not to see a play.

Plays back then were meant to be heard, so blocking was very different.

Big Ben was Big, but I thought it would be more then it was. Great expectations. :-) Press was everywhere! That was one thing the wedding did bring. I plan to go back to London to spend more time. We were not there nearly long enough, and there is so much to do and explore.

My Mom's highlight of course was Harrod's, where you could find 4000 pound shoes (about $6500), all the name brands, crystal chandalliers, gourmet food, restaurants on every floor, and a Pet Spa, plus everything else under the sun.

And we can't forget having tea!

This is a very concise summary of my trip to London! But if I am ever given a chance to spend time living there, I think I'd take it. There is so much to experience. It was smashing!