Monday, December 28, 2009
We had a lovely Christmas, even getting two inches of snow!
New Years in next. Lots of exciting things planned. See you in a few days!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Well, technically, this would be the third submission, but since my second submission got lost in the mail, I consider this one my second.
And this was the real thing. I did my query and submitted it to my critique group for feedback. I read through the manuscript one last time, and then with itchy fingers, I printed it off.
The company I submitted to did not take email submissions. They also didn't ask for just the query letter, but for the first three chapters. They also stated that you could send the full manuscript if you wanted to. Being the confident author that I was, I thought I'd make things easy for them and submit my full manuscript. After all, I knew after the first three chapters they would want to read more.
Honestly, I don't know if they made it past chapter one. Or even past the query, for that matter. At that time, I had about seven different points of view in my book. I had, thankfully, eliminated the head-hopping, but I still gave each character a chance to share his or her thoughts (within a scene or chapter). At least I had cut out the shopping scenes. I mean, really, who stops at a garage sale while running from a kidnapper?? (I blame my 13-year-old self for that one.)
I held my breath. By the time December came with no word, I let it out. I know three months isn't that long, but I figured, if they had liked it, they would have contacted me.
Sometime in late January I got my rejection letter. I rolled with it. Kept it for my scrapbook and reevaluated what more could be done to my book. As much as I hated to do it, I decided it was time to cut POVs. I narrowed it down to three and rewrote the book. I already knew to whom I planned on submitting next, and I was giving myself one year to have it ready again.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Things they like:
1) The detective. Nice voice.
2) The girls' relationship with each other.
3) The hook of the kidnapping case
Things they didn't like:
1) setting. No descriptions.
2) Too many fragments in thoughts.
3) A bit confusing. What are the cases, anyway?
4) Not as strong a hook in chapter 1b.
The first three objections in the things they didn't like are easily rectified. #4, not quite so. I'm struggling with this, how to make the book suspenseful right off the bat. Because, kind of like in the sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Altercation starts out where all is well. The girls have been rescued. It's kind of a play by play of life in government custody, before everything goes wrong in about chapter 7. If I start the book in chapter 7, with everything going wrong, I know my readers will roll their eyes and wonder how on earth this could happen--again.
Kind of like in Catching Fire. If we had jumped right back into the same setting as The Hunger Games, we would have said, "Lame." (Maybe some of us did anyway.)
So, even though none of you have read the book, what do you suggest to help make it a page turner? I'm starting draft #3 today.
Friday, December 18, 2009
These croissants are a holiday tradition. I make them on Christmas Eve so they are in the fridge, ready to be popped into the oven right after presents. They are so wonderful, Mark loves them. The truth is, since our family is so small and we go to see in-laws the day after Christmas, I don't make a Christmas dinner. I make this for breakfast, and then we veg all day long. It's truly wonderful. We always get four or five new movies for Christmas, plus chocolates and crackers. I make cheeseballs and salsas, maybe a pie if I'm really ambitious, and we just lounge.
So please enjoy these labor-intensive croissants. It's not as hard as it looks. The steps are very specific and make this recipe error-proof. I hope you will find the time on Christmas Day to relax and eat good food!
Makes 12 croissants
Ingredients: 4 C flour, plus extra for rolling
1/4 C sugar
1 t salt
2 t active dry yeast
1 1/4 C milk, warmed
2 sticks butter, softened
1 egg, mixed with 1 T milk, for glazing
Stir the dry ingredients into a large bowl, make a well in the center, and add the milk. Mix to a soft dough, adding more milk if too dry. Knead on a lightly floured counter for 5-10 min, or until smooth and elastic. Let rise in a large bowl, covered, in a warm place until doubled in size. Meanwhile, flatten the butter with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of waxed paper to form a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, then let chill.
Knead the dough for 1 minute. Remove the butter from the refrigerator and let soften slightly. Roll out the dough on a well floured counter to 18x6 inches (long rectangle). Place the butter in the center, folding up the sides and squeezing the edges together gently. With the short end of the dough toward you, fold the top third down toward the center, then fold the bottom third up. Rotate 90 degrees clockwise so that the fold is to your left and the top flap toward your right. Roll out to a rectangle and fold again. If the butter feels soft, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let chill. Repeat the rolling process twice more. Cut the dough in half. Roll out one half into a triangle 1/4 inch thick (keep the other half refrigerated). Cut six triangles from the triangle. Do the same to the other half of dough.
Brush the triangles with the glaze. (I stop here for the night, covering with saran wrap. In the morning I let them sit out for half an hour before I bake them.) Roll into croissant shapes, starting at the base and tucking the point underneath to prevent unrolling while cooking. Brush again with glaze. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and let double in size. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 min until golden brown.
What special foods do you eat on Christmas Day?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Today, Mark and I are celebrating five years of marriage. I know, for some of you, we probably seem like newly weds! But for others of you, those who know how many trials we've endured in our short years, five years is a miracle!
And the years just keep getting better. In spite of the recession, employment issues, and other obstacles we've had this year, we are closer to each other and understanding each other more than ever. To my husband, who puts up with a not-so-clean house every day, very rowdy children, and my obsession with my computer. I love you.
In memory of our wedding day. December 17, 2004.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
We did decide to trim down many of my characters. I didn't realize that I'd made everyone "large", "plump", or "portly" until my editor pointed it out to me. That gave me a good laugh! When, of course, the percentage of obesity in Idaho and New York is only 20%. In many places in the south it jumps up to a 30+%, but hey, my book's not written anywhere in the south! (Okay, there's a two-page scene in Texas.)
But finally. Onto the writing. This is the part that is exhilarating and at the same time exhausting. Exhilarating because I've got (mostly) free creative reign, within the confines of making two of my characters non-denominational. (Which does leave me wondering, should I make them another denomination? Atheist? Or just Christian unspecified? I guess we'll let that work itself out.) Exhausting because...I think I've read this book more times than I've read the scriptures. I've rewritten it more times than I've read the Bible, that's for sure. Just since accepting a publishing contract, it's gone through five drafts. Before that, perhaps 20. It's not getting boring, and it's not getting old, but it is getting...exhausting.
So! I'll stop procrastinating and get to work.
Out of curiosity, what draft are you on? And how many of the people around you are fat?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Last week I took my two children into the library with me and we started loading up our basket. We always grab a handful of movies, several children's books, and a few books for me. I always wish I had a shopping cart because carrying the little one and two bags of heavy books makes for an awkward visit.
There's one particular librarian who either doesn't like me or doesn't like my children. Or both. One time during story time, Asher walked up to the front of the group so he could stare at the book up close. Too close. She called me to come and get him. Ouch.
My library has only one check-out counter and seven self-check-out machines. I love them, they're so easy. But they require both hands. I got in the habit of putting Asher on the counter next to me while I 'rang up' my books and put them in their plastic sack. Until said librarian got on to me for having him up there. Now I hook my legs around him while I check out.
Another time when Jacen was in story time, Asher was being so disruptive that the story teller asked me to take him in the hall. She knew Jacen and assured me he would be fine.
Apparently after I left Jacen needed a drink of water. Story teller told him to go ahead, not realizing he didn't know where it was. He wandered around until the Librarian found him and brought him to me, telling me he's too young to be left by himself in the library.
Granted, my kids are disruptive. They definitely are. And on this particular day a week ago, Asher gave me a big grin and took off.
Jacen was sitting quietly, playing with a puzzle. I said, "Jacen, I need to get Asher. Can you sit right here and wait for me?"
"Uh-huh," he said.
"I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."
I managed to swoop in and catch Asher before he exited the building. I scold him and head back. Only to find--you guessed it--the Librarian approaching, stern expression on face, Jacen's hand in hers.
I seriously wanted to melt into a puddle and disappear.
I looked at Jacen and said, "Jacen! I told you to wait!"
She said, "He was standing in middle of the reading center, calling you." Wow, if her voice was any icier, I would have become a popsicle.
Well, you know what, it suddenly irritated me that this woman was chastising me. I'm sure she knows who I am and thinks I'm the worst mother. My kids are the terrors of the library. But I bristled up and said, "Well, I couldn't exactly hear him from the bathroom."
We all know I wasn't in the bathroom; I was chasing my 1-year-old. But the exit and the bathrooms are right next to each other. I had a baby in my arms and a diaper bag over my shoulder. She didn't know I wasn't in the restroom. She handed Jacen to me and I fled, vowing never to return again with my children. Or without a hat and trench coat.
Oh, how embarrassing.
Do you have any places you've vowed not to return to until after dying your hair and getting a new face?
Monday, December 14, 2009
Last year for Christmas, my husband got me a hand-carved wooden set from India. It has a dozen little pieces to it. And they are tiny. (Those people are the size of my pinky finger.) Naturally, my children love to play with it. I came in to the living room the other morning to find that the entire set was gone. They had happily tossed it around the house. We spent all day looking for pieces. We found all except one, and it would be the most important one: Baby Jesus.
I was not happy, naturally. But we set up the set with all the animals and figurines, and unless you were looking, you wouldn't notice that the set was missing the most important part. It's a very busy nativity, with all the extra animals and the high profile kings and the Virgin Mary and Joseph.
Which got me thinking. Isn't this how Christmas ends up sometimes? We get so very busy doing really good stuff. We have the extras, the high profile parties, the gifts, even the love that we share with family. With everything going on, we might not even notice if Baby Jesus is not at the center of our activities. But if He's not there, all the great stuff going on isn't worth anything. Because, after all, He's the reason for it.
The Baby Jesus is the reason for my nativity. Without him, it's just a bunch of wooden toys, and my children can throw them around to their hearts' content. Jesus is the reason for the season. Without Him, I can bankrupt my credit card with gifts and parties without ever finding the peace and joy that comes along with Christmas.
My oldest found the Baby Jesus this morning. We're keeping Him in the forefront.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
How about Christmas caroling? Bundling up in cold clothes and knocking on doors, standing outside houses and singing songs in disharmony? No. I love that. It makes me smile just to imagine the looks on faces when people open the door and see us singing. Not to mention the cookies we usually come bearing.
Perhaps the cookies themselves? Trying to come up with three new recipes as well as our traditional ones? Perhaps I'm overdoing it? Nope. Judging from the way my husband and two little boys single-handedly devoured two dozen cookies last night (no joke), I can't seem to make enough.
Or how about those Christmas lights? All over the place? Let's be honest, I already blogged about how much I love those.
Secret Santas? Dropping off goody bags and running? Oh, I love that tradition! I always hope we'll be the recipients! In fact, I'm getting some plates ready for tonight!
Christmas cards, then. Such an expense! The family pictures, the stamps, the stationary. But it makes me feel connected to people I love, people I never talk to anymore. And I love hearing from them too.
Pajamas on Christmas Eve? Oh no! I got a matching Thomas the train set for my boys this year!!! I can hardly wait to see them in it!
Reading the Christmas story from the scriptures on Christmas Eve? There is nothing more beautiful than remembering our Savior. Reading about his birth as a family. Honoring his birth with gifts and love for each other, and thus for Him.
Pictures with Santa? My husband hates this tradition. But I loved watching my 3-year-old tell Santa about how he loves Thomas the Train and helicopters. He wasn't aggressive or selfish, just very very innocent and excited.
Let's face it, I love our traditions. I can't seem to think of a tacky one. Tonight I'm taking the boys on the local 'polar express.' We might make a new tradition of it.
I can think of one thing. Don't hate me, it's a personal preference! I think the blow up Santas and snow men are tacky. Sorry!!!! But I'd rather see them on an lawn than nothing. There, all better.
What about you??? Can you think of tacky traditions?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
This is horribly exciting and at the same time, mind-swelling. Yes, it starts to make me think I'm all that. And this is very fun. I get to give awards to tons of people! And I've gotten to know some really terrific bloggers lately. I'm happy to give them a shout out!
The first award came from Sara, at The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Writer. She gave me the Honest Scrap Award. This was also given to me by Jay and M. Wolfe (to whom I'm also passing it back), but we'll just pack it all into one.
This one I get to pass on to ten people who I think have honest blogs!!! These people shoot from the hip and say it with forthright, soulful honesty!
Here we go, in no particular order.
1. Laurel's Leaves 2. Kasie West 3. Melanie J 4. Jody Hedlund 5. T. Anne 6. David J. West 7. M. Wolfe 8. Natalie Whipple
9. Jaime Theler
10. M. Gray
Oh, and I have to list ten facts about myself.
1. When I was 11 years old I stepped on a copperhead and spent a week in the hospital.
2. I'm a quarter Guatemalan.
3. I really enjoy scrapbooking.
4. I'd rather have $30 to make a gourmet meal than go out to eat.
5. I can't keep my plants alive.
6. My children wore/wear cloth diapers.
7. I still haven't printed my Christmas cards.
8. My husband and I had known each other for 3 1/2 months when we got married.
9. I hate sleeping.
10. My favorite Christmas decoration is the nativities. I have 13 in my house and expect to get a new one every Christmas.
Next award! Or something like that.
David J. West also tagged me with the 'pass-along interview,' which I have to pass along to two more people. Those two people are:
1. LMJ 2. Melissa J. Cunningham
And finally, the interview. Since this blog post is taking me forever, we'll make this short and sweet.
1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have? The last thing I wrote was the sequel to Perilous, working title Altercation. The first thing I wrote that I still have would have to be Perilous. Of course the original copy is very, very different. (All the other things I wrote, my mom has somewhere.)
2. Write poetry? Only in high school.
3. Angsty poetry? You mean there's another kind?
4. Favorite genre of writing? fantasy, paranormal.
5. Most annoying character you've ever created? Amanda, a foil-character in Perilous. The kind of mean girl you love to hate.
6. Best Plot you've ever created? I think book 3 in my series. But I've also got a bunch of half-baked plots that I think will be excellent, also.
7. How often do you get writer's block? I don't. Just laziness.
8. Write fan fiction? Used to. Harry Potter and Star Trek.
9. Do you type or write by hand? Type.
10. Do you save everything you write? Yes.
11. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written? Branca.
12. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama? Yes! It's probably one of my favorite things to write, actually. I really get teens. I think mentally I still am one. I don't think many adults realize the depth of teenage emotions--or they've forgotten.
13. How many writing projects are you working on right now? Three.
14. Have you ever won an award for your writing? I won an award for an essay in college.
15. What character have you created that is most like yourself? Jaci is a lot like me, but better.
16. Do you favor happy endings? It's a must.
17. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write? No. It happens naturally and there's always spell check.
18. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head. This is from a book I haven't written yet. This is all I have, plus an outline.
Now, I'm curious about the rest of you writers out there. What are you writing? Do you mind sharing a short snippet of something you're working on?
Monday, December 7, 2009
Even now, thinking of these drives, I feel that swelling nostalgic feeling in my heart. And it wasn't just our family. We'd creep along the street, driving 20 mph, behind a long line of cars doing the same thing.
This is a tradition I want to continue with my children. But we are having a hard time finding neighborhoods that are lit up. Every night I take them down a different street, trying to find houses that we'll be able to add to our Christmas Eve route. Most streets have one or two decorated houses. Some have none. The most I've found is five on one street. It breaks my heart. Where is the festivity?
Let me point out right now, before you ask, that my house is not lit up. But it's not for lack of want. I bought the lights. For the past two years I've gone out and strung lights around the mailbox. I'm too chicken to climb on the roof. This year, my dear husband promised he'd put the lights on. But I can't blame him for not doing it--between two jobs and the Army Reserve, when he's home, the only thing on his mind is sleep. Not spelunking.
Are we too busy for lights? Too chicken? (Those are my excuses, after all.)
What's it like where you live? Are the lights out? Is your house lit up? Maybe we'll drive out your direction.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I'm so excited to introduce you to Haley Hatch Freeman, author of A Future for Tomorrow, a bold and forthright book about surviving anorexia. (You can find that book review here. )
I've been trying to get Haley on here for awhile, but she's been crazy sick! First of all, she's pregnant. On top of that, she got the swine flu! Now she's recovered from everything except the pregnancy, so we finally get to do our interview!
Me: Haley, I don't want to talk a lot about your book, because the answers to that are basically all over your blog and website. So first question, from which I expect you to draw all the knowledge you've gained in your 20-something years. What do you think drives a girl to an eating disorder? Why is it so common these days as opposed to two hundred years ago? (Yeah, I know that was two questions.)
Me: What could've been done to keep you from taking that path?
Haley: I honestly don’t know what could have been done for me to have completely avoided my experience with anorexia, but there are steps that could have possibly kept me from getting into the illness that far – to the depth of near deaths. I actually just posted a list of things someone can do to help their loved one leave this behavior behind.
Anorexia is so complex that there are many triggers and many issues that need to be addressed. Everyone is individual so if you suspect a loved one is suffering they need to get help.
Me: That's the part that scares me the most. It's like each person has to decide not to let it happen to her. And she has to want help. As a mother, how will you react if you see signs of an eating disorder in your daughter? Or what will you do to prevent it?
Haley: I believe I will catch on to signs of an eating disorder extremely fast and be able to deal with the triggers before they become a serious illness. There are some prevention steps you can do as a parent, again on my blog I have those listed.
A few of the most important things for prevention are:
*Be an example. A mother who diets is more likely to have a daughter with an eating disorder.
*Teach that you don’t base an individual’s worth on their appearance.
* Help them know their divine worth as a daughter of God.
* Spend time and build trust with your child.
Me: I'm so glad you listed those. Those are so important. Enough of the serious questions. What is your favorite kind of food? Do you prefer to eat in, cook, or eat out?
Haley: I had to chuckle from the irony of the question.
Me: Yes, I like to throw in a little irony. And show everyone that you like to eat now.
Haley: My favorite food is good ole’ mashed potatoes with roast beef dinner. I don’t love cooking, but mostly we do eat in. I’m lucky to have a husband that shares the cooking responsibility.
Me: How many kids do you want?
Haley: I am pregnant with my third child now (it’s a boy!) I have a six year old son and a two year old girl. I feel completely satisfied in this being our last biological child, but I’m opened to the possibly of adoption one day.
Me: That is so awesome. I love that idea. What are you currently doing with your fluency in sign language?
Haley: I am still close to one of my best friends, Erin, who is introduced at the end of my book. She is deaf so time with her keeps my signing skills tuned. I hope to interpret again as an occupation after my children are older.
Me: I think it's just amazing how quickly you caught on to sign language. Do you teach your children?
Haley: Yes, I have taught my children sign from almost birth. There is baby sign you can teach your babies so they can communicate their needs with you before they can speak. Signing children also have higher IQs and do better in school. Both my kids know hundreds of signs.
Me: How do you keep yourself from falling back into emotional deep water? Is your husband a big support for you?
Haley: My husband is amazing! Yes, he is a huge support and the first person I go to with any emotional trouble. I have to say that chemically I do believe my body does need help from medication to allow me to choose to be happy and leave depression behind forever.
Me: I'm so glad your husband is your support. Many women don't have husbands like that. Are you working on any other books?
Haley: Yes, I am writing a fiction piece for young girls. I’m excited about it, but am taking my time. With A Future for Tomorrow there was a great sense of urgency to share my story. I’m just having fun with my next book and enjoying the characters.
Me: I think you have a built-in audience! Do you feel like everyone knows everything about you? Is that a scary feeling?
Haley: I don’t have a problem opening up and exposing my adolescent past because that is what it was: my adolescent past. I am no longer that person who struggles with self esteem, depression, or an eating disorder. My life now is completely different as a wife and mother. Sharing my past is not scary to me. Perhaps sharing this level of personal information about myself today would be scary and something I would be unwilling to do. Also I have a great purpose in exposing the disease for the raw ugly truth it is. I forget myself in the process.
Me: Well, I think you are very brave. What's your most embarrassing moment as a mom/wife/whatever you can think of?
Haley: I guess this is more of an embarrassing moment for my son, but it is something that my husband’s family loves teasing me about. When my oldest boy was a baby, my sister-in- law was over and my son needed a diaper change. I laid him down on the floor and began changing his smelly diaper while we visited. As fast as I could blink my boy had grabbed a fist full of poop --it gets worse-- before I realized he even had it in his hand he had smashed it into his mouth, pasting his tongue in brown! The frenzy of where to start to clean, shock, and uncontrollable laughing and horror between my sister-in-law and I only added to the craziness.
Me: Oh, yes, my little one has done things like that before! It is this frantic moment of, "Where do I start???"
Haley, thanks for doing this with me! I admire you so much and it's great to see how your life has moved on! Good luck with the new little one!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Today, I'm having a down day. I'm female, we're allowed to have them with no reason. Or with reason. Or both.
So I took the kids to the mall and stood it line to buy pictures with Santa. Cha-ching!$$
Then I took them to the new taqueria that opened down the street. That is now one of my favorite places to eat. Let me tell ya. We got two juices, an horchata, a quesadilla, a pupusa, and a tamale, with chips and salsa before the food arrived--and it cost half as much as pictures with Santa. Cha-ching! $
And it got me all excited about Christmas shopping. We have a budget, and it's pretty stingy budget, but I just love the wandering the mall, the stores, looking for the perfect item. I don't make a list. I ask what people want, but most say, "Nothing."
So I wander. And I get all giddy inside, because I know when I see it, I'll recognize it. That's it! The perfect item for Dad/Hubby/son/fill in the blank. I'm so excited to let the kids stay with Grandpa while Grandma and I make a date of Christmas shopping. Seriously, it doesn't get any better than that!
I realized that last year I didn't do any shopping until Christmas Eve, thanks to my erratic work schedule. And then I only hit Walmart. It wasn't nearly so exciting. And the year before, I did most of my shopping online. That was before I realized that buying in the community helps people I know keep their jobs, and now I try really hard not to buy things online. But sometimes, it just can't be helped.
Then my mother-in-law called me last night and asked what I want for Christmas. Of course there are things I want. But it suddenly felt so selfish and snotty to list those things. So I said, "I'll get back to you."
Maybe I'll get some ideas when I wander the mall with my mom.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
And it's way easier.
Once I get over the fact that I'm performing plastic surgery on my baby (yikes!!!), I can picture all the beautiful forms this baby can take. So we delete a chapter, combine two chapters into one. Snip snip snip.
Then she points out to me that I have a thing for eyes. Eyes? Yes, I probably do. She pointed out to me one scene where I had eyes everywhere. Eyes flicking, eyes staring, eyes widening, eyes glancing, eyes welling up with tears, eyes closing. All on one page! You can tell a lot by the eyes. But I was telling too much. Most of the eyes got cut.
But seriously. I love feeling how trim this manuscript is getting.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
And Christmas card time.
Last year, I failed in the Christmas card department. I got it written and printed, the envelopes addressed...but only mailed some of them. How lame can you get? And most of the ones I mailed didn't make it out until the New Year. Oops!
But I had an excuse. I was working a lot, and trying to find time to do anything besides sleep and change diapers was hard!
No excuses this year. I ordered the paper two weeks ago, the pictures a week ago. On Thanksgiving I typed up the newsletter, determined to start getting Christmas cards in the mail today, December first.
Except of course it hasn't worked out that way. First of all, our printer ran out of ink. Why??? It's not like I ever use it, except to print out my manuscript every once and awhile. Second, when the pictures arrived from ********.com, Mark's head had been cut off on the wallets! Not okay.
I called ********.com, who agreed to replace the wallets. But now I'm waiting on them. I figured since I'm waiting on them, I can wait another day to buy the ink. Last night I sent out a mass email collecting addresses, just to make sure I had everyone who wanted to be on my list.
And then yesterday, the baby took a hold of my power cord and pulled the head off. The part that goes into the computer. I didn't discover it until the battery died on my laptop and I tried to plug in the power cord.
So, here we are, the first of December. I have no ink, no pictures, and no typed up newsletter. However, I am doing good on collecting addresses, and I will start addressing envelopes TOMORROW. Maybe next week I'll have everything else I need.
Oh--if you would like a Christmas card from us, please email me your address. Tamara at byu dot net. I'll be happy to send you one!