Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We are on vacation in Branson, Missouri, until Wednesday. So, you won't hear from me until then.

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

Countdown: 10: 2nd Submission

October 2007

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

First Week in the Fire

Last week I presented the second draft of Altercation to my review group. I am so stoked by their reviews because, though they weren't raving and glorious, they have given me a definite direction for draft#3.

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

Christmas Croissants

Yesterday on Steph's blog, she asked us to share a Christmas recipe. I love food! And I wanted to share a recipe, but I also wanted to blog about our anniversary. So today, I'll share a recipe.

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

Happy 5th Anniversary!

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

Fat Characters

I did it! I finished making the changes my editor asked for on the last draft! I'll admit I was very happy after I backed up the newest version and tossed aside the edits. Editing is nice because it gives you a direction to go in, but it's also debilitating. You have to go a certain direction. Not like writing, where everything is still open in front of you, plenty of possibilities.

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

Scandal at the Library

Sometimes I think I'm never going out in public with my children again. Especially the library.

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

Finding Baby Jesus

I may have mentioned a few days ago that I have a fetish for Nativity scenes. I love them. I collect them, especially unique and different ones.

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

Tacky Christmas Traditions

I think Steph pretty much took the cake with her post about ugly Christmas sweaters. I'm trying desperately to think up another tacky Christmas tradition, but I'm drawing a blank.

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

Blogwards Again

People keep finding my humble blog somehow award worthy!!!

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.

“What’s your name?”
She tried to open her eyes, but the brilliant white light around her blinded her. She narrowed her eyes to slits, the light slicing into her line of vision. She couldn’t see anything, but the voice spoke again.
“What’s your name?”
She licked her lips and formed the words, “I don’t know.” She doubted they heard; the sound didn’t even reach her ears.
“Your name is Number Sixteen.”
Number Sixteen, Number Sixteen. It echoed through her head, reverberating off the walls of her mind.
“What is your name?”
She knew the answer to that question. This time her voice came out strong and confident. “Number Sixteen.”

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

Where Have all the Christmas Lights Gone?

My parents started a tradition when we were children. Every year on Christmas Eve, we would drive around the city looking at lights. This was such a festive time for us. We drove through neighborhood after neighborhood, singing Christmas songs. My favorite were the nativity scenes. I loved counting them, and finding the most original.

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

Spotlight: Haley Hatch Freeman

Hey all!

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.)
Haley: There is definitely more pressure these days to look “perfect.” Media plays a huge part in influencing our girls, saying there is a certain body type that is considered attractive. In actuality almost everyone on TV or in magazines is clinically underweight.

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

Shopping Fixes Everything

Well, not really, of course, but it made a good title.

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

Deleting the Eyes

I am having way too much fun with this edit. Last edit, my editor had several scenes she wanted me to write, and others she wanted me to expand on. This edit, we're all about deleting.

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

Making a List

You know. Christmas time.

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!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Toeing the Religious Line

There is a fine line between religion and audience, I'm discovering.

Mostly I've been enlightened by my editor, and it's been a bit difficult to accept. I believe her. Everything she said made sense. It's just sad to me that that's the way it is.

When I started writing Perilous, I was writing it for an LDS audience. (A Mormon audience, for the layman.) Specifically, LDS teens. I always had hopes that the novel would be so excellent that non-LDS readers would also pick it up and find an interest in it, even though the characters were from an obscure, usually unpopular religious denomination.

Turns out I struck out on both counts. Before even offering me a contract, WiDo expressed to me concerns that the topic was too controversial to offer to an LDS audience. My willingness to turn it into a mainstream thriller was a condition of the contract. Of course I agreed. The more I get to know my editor, the more I trust her foresight.

But while Perilous was too controversial to be LDS, it was also too religious to be mainstream.

Are you starting to see how I struck out?

So we've been making some big changes while still preserving the integrity and soul of the novel. We've gone from four LDS characters to two. The hardest part for me has been removing Jaci's inner thoughts that center around God and prayer. And removing the religious discussions. As my editor pointed out, people will be suspicious and think I am pushing my religion on them. She's right, and so those things must go. But I feel like I'm letting my LDS readers down (because I know that I will have some). They are going to read Jaci's actions and think, "What's wrong with this girl? Is she religious or not? Why doesn't she pray more? Why does she always rely on her own strength to get things done?" Because that's what I would think. Don't worry, we're leaving enough prayers in for the readers to know she prays.

Kristine (my editor) hopes there will come a day when the LDS denomination is accepted as readily as the Catholics or Lutherans or Baptists, or anyone else. For now, though, just knowing an author is LDS makes many people shy away from reading their books (I won't tell anyone that James Dashner and Brandon Mull and Stephenie Meyer are LDS, to name a few). I certainly don't want having LDS characters to be the kiss of death.

On another note entirely, Kurt Chambers interviewed me here. If you want to find out more about me or just want a good laugh, check it out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I'm Thankful for

I'm thankful for


My husband

My husband's job

Being a mother

Living close to my parents

My children's health

A full freezer



My book contract

Nice weather

Nap time

My students

My husband

Jesus Christ

The Word of God



My car

Indoor plumbing



Green beans

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Foolery

I am such an idiot.

Before you disagree with me, let me tell you what I did.

It’s holiday time, which means pie time. And one of my favorite recipes is Pumpkin Pecan pie. I’m not such a big fan of pumpkin pie, but love pecan pie, so this recipe helps me get both!

But I also decided to branch out this season. I bought a pie pumpkin for my pie. Found instructions online for my pumpkin and set about making the pie. I also got one 14 oz. can of pumpkin, in case my real pumpkin didn’t make enough. I needed 30 oz. (or two cans) for my two pies.

Everything worked out perfectly. I pureed my steamed pumpkin and set about measuring it. It measured out to just over three cups. So I picked up my can of pumpkin, and this it what the back said: “serving size: ½ Cup. Servings per can: 3 ½.”

What happened next is quite bizarre. I thought something like this, “Okay, so one can has six cups of pumpkin in it. That means I need this can with my pumpkin, because my three cups plus this three cups will be six cups.”

Um…okay, so math is not my forte. Nor is logic. Reason. Anything rational.

Around the time I dumped the can into my bowl and added the egg and condensed milk, I realized that one can only had three cups, not six. Which meant my three cups of pumpkin equaled one 14 oz. can.

I spazzed! I ruined my pie! Now I had twice as much pumpkin as I needed!

Great, I thought. Four pies. Guess we’ll freeze some for Christmas.

I dumped in another egg and made a plan to go to the store and get another can of condensed milk. Then I put the whole bowl in the fridge to sit while I stewed in frustration.

And then all of the sudden it occurred to me. (See how my brain is always a little behind?) One 14 oz. can of pumpkin, which equals approximately 3 cups of pumpkin, was never going to be enough. I needed two cans of pumpkin. Or 6 cups of pumpkin, or one pumpkin pie and one can of pumpkin.

I had done it right after all.

So after all that fretting, I made my pumpkin pies. Though with two eggs instead of one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Harlequin a Vanity Press?

It appears that I am boring my followers.

I only got two comments yesterday, out of 57 followers.

I could delusion myself into thinking that everyone I know is disconnected from the internet or getting sick on turkey already...but I saw how many people posted blogs yesterday.

So! Looks like I need to step up the pace if I'm going to keep my readership.

The truth is that my life is incredibly boring and other than my writing, I don't really have anything going on. And I don't have any expertise in anything.

So, in the effort to appear knowledgable, interesting, and worth commenting on, I'm going to weigh in on the new Harlequin press--the one that is a vanity press, or self-publishing (there is a difference between the two, but for simplicity's sake, I'm going to group them together as not being traditional publishing).

Harlequin recently created a new imprint, called Harlequin Horizons...but what's got people all riled up is that this imprint is not actually an imprint at all, but a vanity press masquerading as a part of Harlequin. It says it all quite clearly on the website--this is a pay for services. It's a bold move by Harlequin, one that will help them meet their expenses in this economy and take advantage of all the rejections they give out in a week's time.

Here's the problem: When a rejection is given, does Harlequin then 'recommend' that an author submit to Harlequin Horizons? Does it give the writer the impression that doing so might just enable them to be picked up by Harlequin itself in the future?

How many inexperienced authors would fall for that? If you look at how many fall for the scam agents and publishing companies, probably many. Especially since Harlequin is a known and legitimate name. (Although Harlequin has promised to change the name of Harlequin Horizons so they seem less like sister companies.)

I'm sure you've been reading about this on every blog for the past week, but just in case you want to see what people are saying today, here's a few more blogs talking about it. Just click here and here. This is a very heated discussion. Nobody seems happy about it.

My take? Writers need to do their research and know what they're getting into. Then if writer chooses to go with a press like Harlequin Horizons, it's not because they're expecting something they're not getting.

Go ahead. Leave your comment. What do you think?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Edits Are Here!

So the big manila package arrived today. (When I was a little kid, I always thought adults were saying 'vanilla'...lots of 'vanilla folders.' You know, because they're yellow. Anyway.)

Very exciting! I can't wait to dig into this. There's something much easier about editing when you have specific instructions. Crossing out lines, changing word order, adding a sentence, deleting a paragraph. Just looks like a fun project.

Perhaps that's why I love getting reviews on my WIPs. It's brain food. It fuels me to do something, to look at it with new eyes.

For some reason Microsoft Word rebelled on me when my editor emailed back an electronic copy, though. It looked funny on the screen, but everything appeared to be normal: 12 pt font, normal margins. I couldn't figure out what it was until I printed it. It printed in 10 pt font (even though the document said it was 12 pt), with huge margins, putting a book-sized area of text in the middle of the page. I thought my editor had done something to the formatting for typesetting purposes. Apparently not...she didn't like the printed pages I sent her. (She asked me why I set my margins so huge. Yikes! She probably thinks I'm an idiot.)

And for the life of me, I could not get Microsoft Word to change the settings!!! I changed fonts, moved page margins, even tried changing the page orientation. No luck. I had to clear all formatting. All of it! Anyone else ever have Microsoft Word go nutsy like that? (Seriously. I'm not an idiot.)

So, now that I'm back to working on Perilous, where does that leave book #2? I'm going to make a few more changes today, and then I'm calling draft #2 good. Done. Time to submit it to critique groups and watch the reviews come in!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Victory, Victory, Victory!

It's official. Hubby has a job. :)

A real job.

Because we are such extravagant big spenders swimming in debt, it's not quite enough for us to make ends meet. But it is a 50% improvement over where we were! It makes our chances of staying above water THAT MUCH BIGGER.

Anyway. Enough about that. Something else my husband is doing extremely well at. Ever heard of Inkpop? Well, it's this really cool website where people post their books, other people vote on them, and the winners get the first four-five chapters read by HarperCollins editing team. Isn't that cool??? With maybe, maybe a publishing contract offered, if they like it.

My husband wrote a book. Called Keeper of the Key. And it's not in the top five, but in one week it's gotten into the top 25. Is that not awesome??? I'm super excited for him.

As for my book, I'm making some final changes to the sequel and then I'm going to say, "Draft 2 is done!" Hopefully today. I have to take out all of the villain POV, since we cut that from the prequel. And then we'll be down in the wordcount, and I'll have to figure out where I can add scenes. And what. Because I certainly am not going to add fluff, but I can't have the book being 120 pages shorter than the first one!

That's it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Countdown: 11: Critique Group

There came a point, after I had made my revisions and my husband had told me how much he disliked my book, that I needed to find a critique group.

I tried to gather up a few people from church, but nobody was interested in reading my book. Just, you know, having me read their book. (Okay, there were only two people.)

So I started looking online.

Believe it or not, you have the same problem online. Everyone wants to be read but nobody wants to read and review. I joined a writing group online that I was quite excited about. I made myself a regular member and read every new post that someone made. However, I quickly lost enthusiasm for two reasons: 1) I wasn't getting reviews in return 2) When I did, they were 1-2 liners of the first 1-2 chapters.

I ended up getting lots of feedback for the first two chapters. But what about the rest of the book???

That's when I found www.writing.com.

It can be a bit confusing at first. So many options. I just started reading every person I found, looking for something great. What I found was a novelist who had written such a great novel that I read the whole thing online in a few hours. (You can see her blog here.) And she led me to the Young Adult Novel Forum.

That writing group was the first to read my novel all the way through.

It was fantastic. I remember the first reviews I got, years ago now, where my fellow members cringed and held their breath to see how I'd take their critique of my novel. Then I remember the reviews I got a year ago, when the members said things like, "I forgot to critique this, I was so into the story." Radical difference. It changed immensely. I could not have done it without a critique group.

I learned so much from them. And I knew quite a bit before, grammatically (I majored in English), but not so much when it came to writing. They were the ones who taught me about head-hopping POVs and adverbs. About flashbacks and prologues and showing emotions instead of telling them.

And they are my friends. I love my critique group. I'm not as active as I was then, but I know they support me. They are a group of fantastic writers.

The best advice I have for an aspiring writer is to get a critique group. Not your friends, but honest writers who will give you their sincere feelings on your book.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 183/183
actual: 183/185
tomorrow's goal: Finish!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Think I'm on a Roll Here in Little Rock

Okay, so I'm not in Little Rock. But I was yesterday.

See, we've had these issues with my youngest. I don't really think there's anything wrong with him, but there's been enough concern that yesterday we took him to the children's hospital for a consultation. (My pediatrician has been trying to get me to go for six months. This is the third appointment we've made. I finally bit the bullet and went.)

It's a long drive. Almost four hours. Luckily, my trooper of a Mom came with me, or it would've been awful. Jacen did great, poor guy, since he had to spend two hours with my mom in the waiting room while I was with Asher in the lab. Yes, for two hours. After four hours in the car.

Then we hopped back in the car and drove home for four hours. Fun day!

But happily, the doctor also felt like there is nothing wrong with Asher. He's very small. That's it. The doctor took some blood tests and said he'll probably have us come back in a few weeks for a biopsy just to RULE OUT ANYTHING BAD, but in the meantime, not to worry.

I'm comfortable with that. Everything's probably fine. And if it's not, we'll find out.

Now it's time to get back on a roll...here in Springdale...

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 178/180
actual: 173/183
tomorrow's goal: page 183/183

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eeek! I heard from my editor!

Writing is so much fun, isn't it?

I heard back from my editor today. Sounds like she's mailing my manuscript back with mark-ups all over it. I'm VERY excited.

First of all, we're cutting out the villain's POV. We tried it, didn't really work, we're cutting it. While I enjoyed his POV, I'd already cut it before and just added it in at my first editor's request. It's always fun to get inside someone else's head. I won't cry over cutting it, though.

Second, and this is the one that really intrigues me: She wants me to consider making only two of the girls LDS (Latter-day Saint), to appeal to a wider audience.

Now, would you believe I'd never even considered that before?

I can see how it would make the book more interesting to a national audience. All of the sudden it goes from being a book with LDS characters (and thus an LDS book) to being a culturally diverse book with several different religious characters in it. (And since the MC is Mexican-America, I think that'll help with the diversity.)

It makes sense, really. I grew up in a predominantly Baptist community. There were four of us in high school who were close friends. Two of us were LDS and two of us were Baptist.

I'm going to explore this idea more. I'm quite excited about it. It will require major revisions, but I agree that it will make my book more marketable. And that is, after all, what we want!

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 147/175
actual: 168/180
tomorrow's goal: page 178/180

Friday, November 13, 2009

Goodbye Camping and Hello Brodi Ashton

First of all, I woke up with an enormous headache today. I hate it when that happens. So I skipped my swimming class and went back to bed, letting my 3-year-old babysit while I slept until lunch time. Fun times! Then I took some more medicine, which as made me groggy but at least knocked out the headache. We're supposed to go camping tonight. I think I might have to let DH and my oldest do that alone.

But, onto the good stuff! I have a SPOTLIGHT today! I'm very pleased to introduce you to Brodi Ashton. We've only recently met on the blog world (what am I saying? I've only been blogging for four months, so everyone's a recent friend!), so I'll be getting to know her too!

Me: Brodi, thanks for agreeing to go through this. Hee hee. I found you because you're also a writer, but I don't know anything about what you write. What books have you written?

Brodi: My first book, Echo, is on submission with my agent. Here’s a blurb:

Lane Maddux has just become an unwilling alien-hunter, and to save her small town, she just might have to kill the boy she loves.

High school reporter Lane Maddux thrives on independence and tolerates her outsider status. But when a recent crime wave turns out to be a supernatural declaration of war, Lane must rely on extraterrestrial skills she never knew she had, and a mysterious guardian she never thought she needed. With the Chief of Police tailgating her every move, the new boy in school playing hacky sack with her heart, and her dreaded stint as a weathergirl turning into an on-air yuckfest, Lane predicts some serious glitches on the road to fighting evil.

When love is on the line, Lane finds herself at a critical junction, caught between what she wants to do, and what she was born to do.

Me: Wow, sounds deliciously fascinating! Made me smile. Can't wait to read it. I'll be watching your blog for updates! What are you writing right now?

Brodi: I have a few novels in the works, and one finished first draft of a new one called Broken. It’s about a girl who’s been trapped in the Underworld for 100 years, and she gets to go back to her high school and relive 6 months. You can read the first page of it on this blog post: http://brodiashton.blogspot.com/2009/11/fbf-winner-and-presenting-first-page-of.html

Me: Another fantastic premise. The paranormal theme is all hot right now. Where are you in the publishing process?

Brodi: I wrote Echo two years ago, found an agent (Ted Malawer of Upstart Crow Literary) revised the book with him for six months. Now, he is submitting it to publishing houses while I work on the next one. I try not to think about it and leave all the dirty work to him. I’ve discovered becoming an author means a lot of waiting. And waiting. And, oh yeah, waiting.

Me: Not only do I hear you, but I totally admire you. You actually had the courage/patience/stubborness to get an agent. I have a book series that I want to do that with, but I haven't even started that process. It takes guts and I don't have them. Yet. Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Brodi: Ha ha! Good question. My family will probably tell you I ran into a lot of walls when I was little. Head first. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Really, though, my mother was an English teacher, and she always told me there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them. She introduced me to all the good books, from classics like Dracula, to Jane Austen, to ancient myths to Shakespeare. She told me these were the latest things to hit the Young Adult market. I believed her. I thought the movie Taming of the Shrew was a kids’ show.

I guess I get inspiration from all of the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched. For instance, Echo is a little bit "Battlestar Galactica", a little bit Veronica Mars. Add a dash of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and a splash of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

For Broken, I turned to mythology. My favorite story was about Orpheus and Eurydice. Eurydice gets trapped in the Underworld with Hades, and so Orpheus plays music and convinces Hades to release her. Only he loses her again. Oh, the yearning!

Me: I always hated that story. But the intrigue is so there. I can tell I'm going to love your books. Can't wait! What audience do you hope to reach?

Brodi: Teens. Teens. Teens. Okay, and adults. I love writing for teens, and YA books are my favorites to read.

Me: Ditto that. But I'm not impressed with the caliber of writing. Most of the time. I hate sifting through to find something good to read. Sounds like your books will be perfect for me. Do you eat while you read?

Brodi: Sometimes. I mostly like to drink tea or inhale Diet Coke while I read. I don’t like sticky fingers on the pages of my books, so Cheetos are out. Okay, I admit sometimes I nab Cheetos with my mouth as if I’m bobbing for apples. It eliminates the “middle-man” of my fingers. That way, everyone’s a winner.

Me: Ha ha, that's hilarious. I'm trying to picture you reading and bobbing for Cheetos at the same time. What YA genres do you like?

Brodi: Um… I love paranormal, sci-fi, and literary/realistic fiction. Some of my favorite YA titles of late: Hunger Games, The Way He Lived, The Dark Divine, Once Was Lost.

Me: Huge thanks for the suggestions! What's your favorite thing to cook?

Brodi: Uh oh. I don’t cook. Hmmm… toast? I boil a mean pot of water.

Me: That's too funny. Totally reminded me of a conversation between my and my BFF in high school when she said she loved to cook. And I said, "What, spaghettios?" And she said, "No, I can make chocolate chip cookies too!" Anyway. What are you afraid of?

Brodi: Spiders, plants that grow too fast, weird dry spots on my arms and legs, the economy, politicians, the ocean, the things in the ocean, sushi, and ingrown toenails.

Me: I remember your hilarious blog post about the plant creeping into your house. I didn't know eczema was on your list. Too funny! What's your favorite physical feature on yourself?

Brodi: My ears. That one’s easy. It’s like the only part of my body I like. They are tiny, like a child’s ears. (as a side note, my least favorite parts are my cankles).

Me: Ears. Well, that's a first. Never heard that before. I loved getting to know you, Brodi. If your books are as funny as you are (I love a bit of dark humor), they're going to be great.Thanks so much!

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 140/172
actual: 137/175
tomorrow's goal: page 147/175

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Theme Song to Perilous

Steph's group blog topic is the theme song to your novel.

This is fun. Right now, I can safely say my favorite artist is Taylor Swift. Love her. I bought both of her CDs a few months ago and will still go weeks listening to nothing else.

My novel Perilous is the first of a 3-book series (potentially more). It's a thriller about four girls who are kidnapped and taken across the border where they are held for ransom by a desperate criminal.

But it's a lot more than that. It's also a love story (not with the criminal, EW!). The love story starts in book one but doesn't really take off until book three. It's innocent and fresh and emotional. (I hope.) Taylor's song "You Belong with Me" captures the feeling of a normal teenage girl who feels completely acceptable the way she is, even if she's not captain of the cheerleading team. It's the guy who needs to see her for what she is.

Her song "Fifteen" is the one that gets me, though. This is the song that talks about the insecurities of being a girl with a crush. The feeling of just wanting to be wanted. I remember that feeling from high school. Oh, it was awful! Just as Taylor talks about in her song, I remember watching friends sacrifice pieces of themselves because they thought it would give them something in return. It never did, and that was heartbreaking.

I want to capture that emotion in my books as accurately as Taylor did in her songs. When you read my series, if it doesn't sweep you away and make you feel something, then I failed!

My other stories have theme songs too. But I haven't written those books yet, so they don't merit being mentioned in the blog post.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 122/171
actual: 130/172
tomorrow's goal: page 140/172

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Respecting Those that Take a Stand

Statistically, 46.8% of all high school kids have had sex before they graduate.

Judging from movies, books, and TV shows, you would think it was 100%.

What about the other 53.2%? Who writes books, movies, and TV shows for them?

Yesterday, I read a blog. I can't remember which blog it was, so if it was yours, speak up! But this blog mentioned how it almost seems to be required in YA literature to have the 16+ aged kids having sex.

Why is that?

Why is it that movies show everyone living together? Okay, lots of people do. WE GET THAT. But not EVERYBODY does.

In my books, some kids are having sex and some kids are not. Kind of like real life.

Why does the media make fun of the kids that are not having sex? Like they aren't having sex because they are plain, ugly, socially inept, rather than because maybe they don't want to.

We should respect other people. Especially if they are willing to take a stand against something popular. That's respectable.

When I was in high school, there was a girl in my class that was a member of a strict religious group. I'd known her since elementary school, actually. She wasn't allowed to cut her hair or wear make-up, get contacts, or wear pants or short skirts.

This girl was nothing short of AMAZING.

I didn't share her religious beliefs. But I didn't ever think of her as crazy or fanatical. I admired her ability to live what she believed. She was a beautiful girl who knew how to carry herself. She was very smart and very kind. To this day, I honor her and what she stood for.

So. Who's writing books about girls that are smart and sexy and beautiful and not having sex? Who's making movies about kids that go to class and have fun at football games and don't drink?

I don't know about the movies part, but I'm doing my part with the books. This is my stand. To portray life the way it REALLY is. Not the way Hollywood thinks it is.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 112/169
actual: 112/171
tomorrow's goal: page 122/171

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Right to Drive the Speed Limit

Today as I was driving home from Sam's Club, I got stuck behind a dump truck. Not just me, either, but a big line of cars got stuck behind this guy. Unfortunately, we were on a two-lane highway. The speed limit might have been 50 mph, but we couldn't go any faster that the dump truck in front of us going 25 mph.

While inconvenient, there was nothing that could be done about it. The dump truck needed the road. He couldn't go any faster (I assume). We simply had to slow down and crawl along behind him.

But what about those other times? Those times when you are happily zipping along at the POSTED 40 mph, and a car pulls out in front of you doing 35 mph? Um, hello. Speed limit is 40.

Disclaimer: I do not advocate speeding. I don't speed. Ever. The last time I urged someone to go faster than the speed limit was when my mom was driving me to the hospital to give birth to my second son. ah, what a fun day.

Back to the issue at hand. Perhaps it is because I don't speed that I like to take advantage of every legal fastness I can. My husband and I got in a huge argument about this a few weeks ago. He's one of those absent-minded drivers. He drives what he wants, not paying attention, whether that's ten below or ten above the speed limit. He said people have the right to drive slower than the speed limit.

Sure, of course they do! As long as they do it in the right lane. The right lane being the right lane.

I'm a respectful driver. I won't tailgate you. I won't yell at you. I'll simply go around you. But if I can't get around you because John Doe in the right lane is also going 5 miles below the speed limit, I'm going to be exasperated.

After all--don't I have the right to go the speed limit???

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 90/166
actual: 90/168
tomorrow's goal: page 100/168

Friday, November 6, 2009

Boycotting Amazon

While I think of myself as an educated person, I don't have all the facts and answers at my fingertips. A few months ago I quit buying from Amazon.com and even B&N whenever possible to support my local indie. (You can read about that here.)

Those of you who are writers know how tough it is to make a profit from writing. (I'm not even talking about living off your profit--I'm talking making one.) What I didn't realize was how hard it is for publishers to make any money. But yesterday I learned from this blog that on top of everything else a publisher must pay for, if Amazon sells the book for them, Amazon takes 60%. 60%! And they charge a restocking fee. For this particular small press publisher, it ended up costing them money every time someone bought a book from Amazon.com.

You read that right. Instead of making money from the sale, they spent money every time they sold.

Granted, that's not going to be the case for big publishers who print much larger orders. But if Amazon takes 60%, the author takes another 10%, the publisher is left with 30%. And they still have paychecks to write.

I'm not sure how much a bookstore charges, but I've heard something closer to 40%. (Anyone want to correct me on that?)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, I'm willing to pay a few extra dollars to avoid Amazon. In fact, I'm going to skip the shipping and handling altogether and order it from my local indie.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 84/164
actual: 80/166
tomorrow's goal: page 90/166

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Totally Frivolous

In light of yesterday's serious post, I'm going to share with you the haircut I'm getting on Saturday:

I'm going to ask for that face too.

Thanks for all the hugs. I ate a lot of Hershey kisses and feel better. The sooner the Halloween candy is gone, the better.

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, the haircut won't cost me a dime. Mark bought me a gift certificate to this place for Mother's Day.)

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 80/160
actual: 74/164
tomorrow's goal: page 84/164

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Backed into a Corner

I hate to talk about something personal like jobs and finances, but I'm having a "I need to talk to someone" day. This post might not be up in 24 hours. I just need to get it off my chest.

Mark has tried like crazy to get a job in his career path, to no avail. He got a job two weeks ago, but without stating the pay, let me just say that it leaves us more than $1000 short each month. We have enough savings to pull us through for two months at that pay.

So Mark and I put a lot of prayer and thought into it, and we asked the Lord to help him find a job that would cover our expenses by December first, or he is going to volunteer for deployment. Obviously not what we want to happen.

Then he had a job interview last week, and it went really well. So well, that on Thursday they offered the job to him. They said it would start Friday, Nov. 6, as long as he passed his polygraph test.

On Monday (Nov. 2) Mark passed his polygraph test. Like a good employee, he let his current employers know about the other job. And THEN he gets a call from the HR department telling him not to give his 2-weeks notice yet, the job might not start for awhile.

A major bummer. And now he looks flaky at his current job.

They also scheduled him for a 6am physical this morning at the lab, half an hour from our house. Mark was up at the crack of dawn for that thing. When he walked back in at 7am, I did a double take.

"That was fast!" I said.

"No one was there," he said.

What??? I drilled him. Did you call all your phone numbers? Yes. Did you try all the doors? Yes. Are you sure it was 6:ooam?

He showed me the paper. Very legible handwriting. 6:00am.

He even drove to the nearby medical center. Left messages. Nothing.

No one called him back as of lunch time today.

I know my faith is being tested here. But I'm frustrated. Are we not meant to have financial security? Is he supposed to leave me for a year? I feel like we're being backed into a corner and I'm a panicked animal, lashing out. Someone else is playing the cards for us. I'm trying to trust, to relax. Breathe. It's the beginning of November. We still have a month.

Everything will be okay...right???

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 70/160
actual: 70/160
tomorrow's goal: page 80/160

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hard Copy Away!

So this morning I mailed off my latest draft to my editor. It is the third hard copy I have mailed out to WiDo Publishing. The first was in request to my partial, the second after several revisions, and now this one. I also printed out and mailed three other hard copies to publishing companies at the same time I was querying WiDo.

I'm saving my receipts. Business expenses. I won't have a return this year, that's a guaranteed. But I might on my taxes!

Since signing a contract with WiDo Publishing, this is draft number four. Here are the changes so far:

Draft 1: Changed the opening scene from four girls to two. Took out all backstory.

Draft 2: Added in the detective's and villain's POV.

Draft 3: Slowed down the romance between J and R.

This most recent draft was by far the most extensive. It required me to pretty much delete the romance between J and R while still maintaining some romantic tension. I'm not sure how well I did at that. We'll see.

It then required me to remove R's POV from the manuscript. He only had five scenes, and three of them were easy to do. J was present, so I was able to show the scene from her POV. J was not privy to the other two scenes, however. So they got cut. Completely. Again, I tried to make sure any pertinent information got talked about or discussed, but we'll have to see if there's anything I left out.

Back to work on my sequel rough draft. I need to set goals again.

Oh, and I've had two new story ideas in the past week. Exciting. Wish I had more time to write.

Sequel revisions:
today's goal: 50/157
actual: 60/160
tomorrow's goal: page 70/160

Monday, November 2, 2009

Walmart and the Missing Debit Card

Today I planned on hitting Walmart and getting some Halloween decorations for 50% off (or more). I also needed ink and paper so I can print off a draft of my book and mail it to my editor. While I was at it, I figured I'd get groceries.

I had a blast in the clearance section. Got cute little ghosts and glittery skeletons, window decor, fun things for next year. The ink and paper section, not quite so exciting, but very necessary.

Then the food. :::Sigh::: If you ever go grocery shopping with children, you know why I'm sighing. We manage to make it through the whole ordeal without repeating any aisles, which is a BIG DEAL.

Of course, Little Tiny goes nuts around the time we get to the check out line. I smile at everyone around us, ignore my screaming child, and start putting groceries on the belt. My children start taking their shoes off and hitting each other. I discretely threaten them.

The cashier points out to me that I grabbed the wrong size milk for my WIC coupon. Big surprise. Grrr! No matter how hard I try, I always get the milk wrong. Either the wrong brand, the wrong size, or the wrong percentage! I smiled politely and asked the bagger to go and exchange the milk for me. He walks around my screaming children, who are lunging at the candy aisle.

While she's ringing that up, I start digging through my purse for my debit card. After all, I had other things to buy.

Can't find my debit card.

I don't carry any other form of money on me. No check book, no cash.

I can feel the beads of sweat collecting on my forehead. My hands shake and my frustration mounts. I remove everything from my purse and start shifting through the business and membership cards. Where is that debit card??? I remember the last time I used it, and I know I put it back.

Which leaves only one culprit. And he was very out of reach at the moment, which was probably very good for him.

I pull out a $30 check my dad wrote me. "You cash checks here, right?"

"Right," she says.

I sign my check and hand it over, wiping my forehead.

"Oh. It has to be a paycheck or government issued. No personal checks."

Well, I wish she would've told me that in the first place!

Seriously, I would've just put it all back, except I really needed the paper and ink. And bagger dude hadn't come back with my milk yet, anyway.

Luckily I had a paycheck in my purse. Cost me $6 to cash it at Walmart, but I bought what I needed. And a bag of M&Ms to hush my shrieking children. I know, horrible mom! The day after Halloween and I'm bribing them with MORE CANDY!

I could care less. The line behind me was enormous. I took my hard-earned cash, my quart of milk, my Halloween decorations and paper and ink, and I high-tailed it out of there.

Hobby Lobby will have to wait until tomorrow. Now that I have my debit card back.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Manuscript Bouncing Back

I got lazy and didn't contact anyone to see if they wanted to do an interview with me.

But that's okay. I finished up my next set up revisions for my editor, and as soon as I buy more paper and ink, I'll print it up and mail it off.

I'm excited. I think (hope) it's gone the direction she wanted it to. I cut an entire character's POV out. The scene in question, where I pondered if I should make it a camera lens POV, I cut as well. I did try it. But after I took out the person introspection, the thoughts, the feelings, the scene didn't feel alive anymore. It felt, well, like a screenplay. Empty.

So I cut it. There was some great action in that scene. Two boys sneaking into a police station, using their identical twin status to fool the clerk, stealing a car, almost getting caught at the toll booth...you get the picture. But it lost its soul when I took out the boy's POV. Someday, when they make a movie of my book (ha ha), we can put the scene back in.

But guess what that means? It means I get to work on the sequel again. Which, as Perilous changes, so does book #2.

Tonight at church we're having a chili cook off. My husband and I went to one of these when we were engaged. It was super fun. I love my husband. He's such a great guy. Even though he laughed at my dead princess tiara.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thinking Out Scenes

What goes into creating a scene for you? Do you outline it? Play it out in your head? Just sit down and type?

Whenever my mind wanders, I find myself imagining new scenes for my characters. I get so excited about the scene, I'll start it over and over again, relishing in that delicious feeling of something new, something emotional.

But here's the thing: I never let myself finish the scene in my head. In fact, I usually only play the first few sentences. Again and again and again.

For some reason, the first time I think/play it out is the best time. I've played out entire scenes before, loving every minute of it, and then sat down to write it. Only to have it not turn out as good. So now, I don't let myself finish playing out the scene. I know where it's going, but it's not until I sit down at the computer that I let the scene come to life. I let the characters finish it.

It's like the first time is the best time.

It reminds me of one time in college. For fun, my ward (church group) was making mini-videos and having a competition. Everyone who wanted to participate was put into a team. We only had two weeks, so it was pretty impromptu. One night we all gathered in an apartment and just videotaped our movie. No scripts, just prompts.

I was cast as the unhappy fiance. My fiance and I had a screaming break up fight, and then a lovely make up scene later. It was great. Off-screen, my team was holding back the laughter. We finished, ecstatic, and went to watch it--only to discover that Camera Dude had been filming the carpet the whole time.


We re-taped it. And my fiance and I tried, really tried, to capture the exact essence and wording of the first time. It fell flat. We couldn't repeat what we had done so perfectly without trying.

That's how writing is for me. At least, writing new scenes. (Editing is a different beast entirely.)

What about the rest of you? Can you relate? Or is it totally different?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Countdown: 12: Rereading and Rewriting

The year is 2007. I have just found my ancient manuscript for the book I wrote in junior high. The title is, "Walk Me Home."

The first thing I did was sit down and read the thing. I came away impressed. A fifteen-year-old wrote this? But in spite of being impressed, I knew it wasn't up to publication standards. The plot was good, but the presentation was totally lacking. I had incorporated all of the common conventions of the time: a flashback in the first chapter, long descriptive paragraphs of introduction for each character. And also, the characters were too young. At ages 12 and 13, I couldn't really explore the tragedy and situation of being kidnapped. I couldn't make something bad happen to children.

So I began to rewrite. I changed the title from "Walk Me Home" to "Walk Beside Me," to more accurately reflect the religious images in the novel. The characters got older, ages 14 and 15. Then I cleaned it up, taking out lengthy descriptions and random silliness that made me roll my eyes.

I left a lot of the original material in there, however. I felt I needed to pay homage to the adolescent work.

When I thought the novel was ready, I handed it to my most cynical reader: my husband. The result: Two thumbs down. He couldn't even finish it. He said it was simply unbelievable and at times laughable. Playing Nancy Drew? Going shopping when they should be hiding?

I was crushed and grateful that he didn't read on. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I realized he was right. In a major way. It wasn't enough to simply clean up. I needed to rewrite.

The Nancy Drew scene was cut. Instead I created a scene where the characters to the right thing and still end up in danger. Much higher stakes. The shopping thing? Groan. Only a kid would write such a silly scene. I cut it too. The feeling of suspense and terror needed to be in every scene in the novel. No trying on hats and going to art museums.

As I made these changes, I realized I needed more input. More help. So, in the summer of 2007, I began to search for a critique group.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mermaids and Catching Fire

My husband and I went out to eat on Saturday.

This was a very grand moment for us. We love going out to eat, and haven't gone to a restaurant in months. But we had a bit of extra money and wanted to treat ourselves. Plus we had a $25 gift certificate.

So we headed to restaurant in Fayetteville called Mermaids. Not a franchise, so if you don't live around northwest Arkansas, you're not gonna be able to go. Sorry!

But let me tell you about what we ate. First, we got the fried lobster fritters. Yum. Bite-sized, tender morsels of pink and white lobster in a crispy, golden shell. Ah, so good. Next we had the Soup of the day, which was a very rich shrimp bisque. Dinner was served with rolls and a salad. I got the tuna special, which was a fillet of tuna covered in a Marsala sauce glaze on a bed of fettuccine noodles and a side of shrimp. Um, yum!

That wasn't enough, of course. We had to get dessert after that. My husband got a brownie and pecan ice-cream concoction while I got a chocolate ganache with lots of raspberry sauce poured over it. (I even asked for extra raspberry and got it.)

I daresay we may have found my new favorite restaurant. I can't wait to go back.

I also finished reading Catching Fire over the weekend, so I must say a few words about it. It was great, really good, and I can't wait for the next one. But I was slightly disappointed in two things (NO SPOILERS. I'll be a bit vague on details, but I'm not going to give anything a way): 1) The setting. I wanted to see something different from her. It felt too much like a cop out. 2) The love triangle. This, of course, is subjective. I've picked out who I liked in the love triangle, and it bugged the dickens out of me anytime she showed any interest in the other character. To the point where sometimes I wanted to just put the book down. Yet I know there must've been other people rooting for the exact opposite. That's gonna happen. But still, disappointing.

Finally, the use of present tense began to wear on me. I ignored it for the entire first book, but by this one, I found myself having to correct my reading because some things I automatically read in past tense. This book is really good. But I think I will avoid other books that right in present tense.

Just my thoughts and opinions. Read the book and make your own opinions.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review Groups and Kurt Chambers

I've often seen writers online asking how they can get a review/critique group together. All of the advice for finding a group IRL is great! Provided there is anyone around who likes to write. And is willing to set aside time to review your stuff with you.

I haven't found any success IRL. There are a few people from church who also write, but every time we try to get together, it falls through. I mean, a critique group has to be COMMITTED.

But I did find great success online. The first online writing group I joined was too generic. The members were poets, short story writers, song-writers, and a few novelists. Guess how many of the novels were getting reviewed? You got it. Zero. I was a member for several months and received a handful of reviews on my first three chapters. That was it. And I was one of those members reviewing every new thing that got posted, just to keep the enthusiasm up.

My commitment waned and I quit going there. I asked friends from playgroup, family members, anyone who would want to read my novel. I got two or three offers. Only one finished the novel. Ugh. This wasn't going well.

And then I discovered writing.com. I cannot say enough good things about this website. Within the writing websites are several different forums that focus on specific things. Many of them are private and you have to apply for membership. But the membership is free!

I could not have finished any of my books without this review group. I joined four: The Young Adult novel group, the Christian novel group, the Novel Review group, and the Novel Focus Forum. I met the most amazing people, learned the most obvious things, and finally had my novel read, from start to finish!

Which brings me to today's spotlight. I met Kurt Chambers in the Young Adult Novel Group, who boots up his computer in England so that we can meet online. Really cool! Meet Kurt. I hope you like him.

Me: Hey Kurt! So, since we all know you're a construction worker, I think we're dying to find out. How on earth did you get started writing?

Kurt: The simple answer to that is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I knew nothing, and had absolutely no idea of just how much was involved. I worked with children as a volunteer and they were my inspiration. I wanted to write for children. I wrote the first three chapters of my first novel and gave it to the most cynical person I know--my wife. I knew I would get an honest reaction. She read them and turned to me and said, "If you kill off that character, I swear I won't read any more of this." What an awesome reaction! That was enough to convince me I could do it. The rest is history.

Me: How many books have you written?

Kurt: I've written three full novels in a middle grade fantasy series: Truth Teller, The Wrath of Siren and Favian's Law. At the moment I'm working on another two books. The World in Johnny's Back Garden, which is aimed at slightly younger children. The story is designed to give kids an alternative view of the living things around them. And Unknown Reality, a middle grade fantasy novel. I've very excited about this book. It's bordering on sci-fi, mixed with fantasy. It's a strange story, but even in it's infancy it's already receiving banging reviews.

Me: Wow, sounds awesome! That makes me so excited to see all of your series in print! Give me a quick synopsis of your Truth Teller series.

Kurt: How could a modern day girl like Charlotte ever envisage that magic really exists? Even with her own vivid imagination, the place for other realms belonged in a child's fairy tale. Or so she thought, until she stumbled across a hidden curio shop and an even stranger shopkeeper. He gives her a gift that resembles an antique snow dome, but this is not an ordinary globe. The world Charlotte has always known disappears as she's spirited away into a mystical land.

This is the beginning of a lifelong friendship that changes Charlotte's life forever. Discovered by a young elf alone in the forest, she embarks on a journey in search of a group of travelling Entertainers. She encounters heart-stopping dangers and real life monsters, but a far greater threat shadows her every move. Even the strength and skill of her new found companions cannot protect her against a ruthless druid assassin. But in this realm, Charlotte is not the vulnerable little girl she thought she was.

How's that?

Me: Great! And for those wondering, I have read Truth Teller, the first book in Kurt's series. I said it to him then, and I'll say it again: How is this not published??? Where are you in the publishing marathon?

Kurt: LOL...Interesting question. Unpublished! I would like to think that I'm on the edge of being published. I have my first book edited to a publishable standard. I've managed to scrape together a reasonable synopsis, and my query letter has sparked interest of some of the biggest names in the publishing industry. I'm doing everything I should be doing as far as I know. All I need now is my big break.

Me: Ah, Kurt. You deserve it! So...Brownie Girl Scouts??? Or Girl Guides, whatever you call them over there. How did you end up in charge of them?

Kurt: Working with the Brownies came about by pure chance. My wife used to volunteer helping to to run the Stevenage 17th Brownie pack at the local church. My eldest daughter was a Brownie back then. They asked me if I would come with them on a trip to London as there had to be so many adults per child. It was one of the most awesome days out I'd ever had...lol...I have the mental age of a ten-year-old myself, and I love kids. I started going down on Brownie night to help out and ended up getting enrolled as an official Girl Guider. I loved it so much, it was the best thing I ever did in my life without question. I loved those kids like they were my own.

Me: That's neat. Not everyone can say that they've been a Girl Guider. If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Kurt: This would have to be a toss-up between visiting the pyramids in Egypt, or the Incas mountain settlements in South America. Both would be an awesome experience and a massive inspiration for future stories.

Who would you take with you?

Kurt: M
y wife, of course. It would be suicide not too...lol...

Me: Good point! How many bedrooms does your house have?

Kurt: Funny stuff! Tamara, you're going to be gutted--

(Me: Gutted?)

Kurt: --because my daughter has not long moved out...lol...I have a three bedroom house. Houses in England are a lot smaller than in your part of the world. The whole floor area of my home is approx. 23 foot square. In a word, small.

Me: Um, yeah. Like the size of my closet.

Kurt: For the last year or so there has been eight of us living here. Me, my wife, my three kids and my eldest daughter's two children AND her boyfriend. In a word, insane! Now there is just the four of us...Phew! It's like living in another world.

Me: Phew! Glad it's just ya'll again. Now that you're done gutting me, how do you say 'tomato'?

Kurt: I say tomato...lol...I pronounce it as tom-ar-to as apposed to tom-ay-to.

Do you stand in a line or a queue?

I have to queue for things here in England.

Me: Do you prefer winter or summer?

Kurt: Definitely summer.

Me: Why?

Kurt: Have you ever been to England? Cooooold.

Me: You should try migration. Works for the birds. What is your favorite food?

Kurt: That's difficult, there's so much nice stuff out there. I think I would have to say beans on toast.

Me: I'm so not laughing at you. Yes I am. Beans on toast???

Kurt: I'm a bit of a legend for my baked beans. Seriously, it dates back from when I was at school and everyone used to come round my house for lunch to sample my beans. I guess that makes me the original Mr. Bean...lol...

What's your favorite animal?

My favourite animal. Am I allowed two?

Me: Sure, why not?

Kurt: Ludo, my recently departed cat. He was eighteen-years-old when he died this year, and was a significant member of my family.

Me: Oooh! So sorry!

Kurt: I also have to include, Percy, my insane talking cockatiel. He was proper mental. He used to just fly around my house doing whatever he liked. He liked fighting...lol...We had him for years before one of the next door neighbours kids scared him out the house. Very sad story.

Me: Okay, so you like birds and cats, one bird and one cat in particular. Awesome interview, Kurt! You're one of the best! Be sure and let me know when you get that contract!

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