Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Big Bad Wind

Last night was a bit frightening at our house. Shortly after dark, the alarm on the storm warning detector began sounding off. My son immediately began gathering up his prized possessions and trucking them down to the basement. That ritual always brings a smile to my face, because one of the first items he grabs is a tool kit which must weigh fifteen pounds. It’s filled with metal sockets and wrenches. But, we all have our priorities.

Soon the lights went out, and we sat in the glow of lanterns. My daughter decided to read. My husband booted up my laptop so he could follow the storm. To distract my son from the chaos going on outdoors, I taught him how to play Nerts.

Then the fast-moving storm arrived. There wasn’t much lightning, but the wind roared with an odd pitch that I had never heard before. It sounded like it was traveling down a long, metallic tunnel. Eerie.

We were fortunate. The storm passed north of us by several miles. Our neighbors up there were hit by a rather large tornado, but the news is reporting that everyone is accounted for, and there weren’t many injuries. It seems a little early for the violent weather patterns to be hitting, but I do live in Kansas, and despite the claims of Chicago, the wind never seems to quit around here, which helps me segue into my little jewel I want to share with you today.

 We all know the story of the three little pigs. But someone shared a version of it yesterday that I had never heard before. As a writer, and a reader, I’m always interested to listen to other people’s ideas regarding the usage of words. This guy does a remarkable and hilarious job of showing us how words affect us. I enjoy listening to comedians, and I can assure you this one is squeaky clean, so you don’t have to worry about your kids watching it.

Just click on the linky thing. And have a wonderful final day of February. Depending on your current location, you might also want to keep an eye on the weather.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reads for This Week

I read two books this week, and I highly recommend both of them to anyone who enjoys a look back in time. They weren’t good times, but you will find glimpses of goodness in them. They certainly weren’t easy times, at least, not for the kids who played the leads. But they are amazing stories that will touch your heart, bring a tear to your eye, and give you an insight into the souls of some remarkable characters.

The first book I read was City of Orphans by AVI. It’s a mystery that takes us to 1940’s era New York City, to the poverty of the tenements and the opulence of the new Waldorf hotel. It centers on an immigrant family and their struggles to survive the harsh realities of their new life in a new country. Their optimism and generosity abound, even when faced with the fear of their daughter’s imprisonment and their concerns for survival. The family’s hope lies in their young son, a newsie who hawks his wares in the crime-laden streets where gangs rule, and a young orphan girl who makes her home in a filthy alley.

The second book I read is Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. This is another coming-of-age story, and is also boy-centric. I didn’t plan to read these books together; I simply managed to pick both of them up during a regular run to the library.

Okay For Now takes place in a small New England town during the 1960s. The family moves there after the father loses his job. The father is an abusive, loud-mouthed jerk, who has taught his sons to follow in his footsteps, and has soured them to any hope of reaching beyond the miserable existence they call life. The story centers around the youngest son, who has been hardened not only by the fists and verbal abuse of his father, but has also become the easy prey of his older brothers. Everything in life is stupid, according to him, except for the soft spot he has for his mother, and his love for his favorite baseball player.

Then the boy begins exploring his new small town, and slowly begins to find glimpses of what life could be. There is still some beauty left in the world, and with the help of a full cast of characters who are rich and vibrant in a wide array of colorful insights, he begins to discover a beauty in himself, a beauty that his brothers and father had all but destroyed.

I don’t want to give away any more of the stories, because I can’t do justice to them, and you should read them for yourselves. These authors have captured such heart wrenching pain, and mixed it with the perfect dose of stunning beauty, to create works that touched my heart deeply. As a reader, these are the stories that remain with me forever, for the stories could be those of my neighbors, or for anyone I meet on the street. As a writer, they are the stories I dream of finding in myself, but despair of ever reaching such levels of insight.

If you have read either of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Sharing books is a great way to get to know others. If you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for? They are totally awesome.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Editing Angst

How does anyone survive the editing process? No, I'm totally serious. I haven't even started yet, and I'm sure my blood pressure has elevated to dangerous levels. I can't sleep, for I'm busily rewriting scenes as I lay in the dark, tossing and turning.

Hopefully, all this angst is going to prove unnecessary. After all, I haven't received back my first run of edits. Perhaps that's the problem. I can't help but imagine downloading my manuscript and finding it filled with so much redlining that I can't wade through it. My stomach clinches when that picture flashes into my head. Perhaps the writing is so horrible she can't even find a starting point for tearing it apart. See what I mean? It's a terrible feeling to know some stranger with a lot of experience is killing off your darlings - or not. 

I guess that makes me an impatient person. Well, that's no secret. I always start on my Christmas Wish List by the 2nd of January, if not sooner. I'm not greedy, but I don't want to forget great gift ideas that I find at the beginning of the year, when Christmas falls at the opposite end of the calendar.

So how do you stop that second-guessing and worry over what your editor will eventually bring to you? Do you start on that next novel? Do you sit and eat chocolate all day long? Do you shop? I'd really love to hear from any of you regarding what works for you. Whatever I'm doing, is definitely not working.

As always, comments are welcome.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Welcome to My World

Good Morning, everyone. If you are a returning follower, you may have noticed the music that now accompanies my posts. After my son successfully launched his own blog, I asked him to put a player on mine so that he could practice the steps and become competent with them. This way, when his mom forgets how to do it, she has someone with a younger brain with better recall ability to take her through the steps once again.

I chose Welcome to My World for my theme song for a couple of reasons. First, it’s always been a favorite of mine. My world in cyberspace consists of all my wonderful friends who support me in my love of writing. The writing part of my life is like a completely different world, because I live through my characters and their situations. So, of course, I want to welcome all of my friends here every time they care to drop by. While they are here, I want them to leave their cares behind and enjoy their time with me.

Another reason I love this song is the overall message that it contains. When we welcome others into our lives without reservation, we receive so much. Sometimes it is friendship, other times it is love. It can also lead to opportunities for writers to expand their knowledge of human nature, which is great for developing believable characters and worlds. It’s a win-win situation.

But long after I heard and fell in love with this song, and before I accomplished the task of completing a full-length novel, I met the man who wrote this song. His name is Johnny Hathcock, and although our friendship was brief in the overall scheme of things, his influence will have a lasting effect on my life.

I met Johnny in 1983, while I was living in Amarillo, Texas. I had never worked up the courage to make any of my writing public, other than papers my English professor at West Texas A&M read aloud in class from time to time. My self-confidence level was near the bottom of the well, and so I didn’t take my writing seriously. Besides, I mostly wrote humor, so I didn’t think anyone would take it seriously.

Then came time for the Tri-State Fair, a pretty big deal in the Texas Panhandle. While perusing the fair brochure, I found a writing competition. As they say, whoever they are, the rest is history. I entered the competition, and my poem won first place. One of the judges for the competition invited me to join their writing group. That’s where I met Johnny Hathcock.

Many of you may not have ever heard the name, but Johnny Hathcock is the man who wrote Welcome To My World, along with over 400 other country songs. He was also a writer of poetry, and his regular day job was as a writer for a Texas newspaper. I say was, because Johnny passed away in December of 2000, at the age of 81. But while he was with us, he influenced a lot of people, including a woman who didn’t have much faith in her ability to write a cohesive sentence. He encouraged me, and showed me strengths and weaknesses in my writing. He also thought my particular brand of humor was funny and worthwhile, and told me to start taking myself seriously, because no one else would until I learned to do it first.

So this post is my little tribute to a man who helped me become the writer I am today. There are others who have helped me along the way, and I will mention them from time to time. I don’t know how long I will keep the player on here, because it tends to distract me. But every time I hear this particular song, I will remember Johnny Hathcock and thank him for welcoming me into his world.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Social Media Week

I've been seeing all the hype about social media week, so I used it as incentive to encourage my son to get down to business on creating his blog. I'm happy to say that the ploy worked.

When Junior signed up for several projects with his church group last fall, I was gungho to help out in any way I could. I volunteered to be a coach for the scrapbooking group. Likewise, the children's book and poetry categories - no one can call this mom a slacker. He  knew he could count on my help with his service project, too. I've always encouraged my kids to serve others in creative ways. Unfortunately, I had to pass as a coach for his photography project, because for the life of me I cannot figure out a camera.

But when he decided to sign up for the Build Your Own Webpage project, I knew we were in trouble. Apparently, I'm not the only one in our group who is intimidated by the idea, because no one was willing to tackle the project and volunteer as a leader. Several of us attempted to persuade him to go for a Power Point, but he wouldn't be swayed.

Fortunately, some of the projects allow for adult help. Depending on the complexity, help can run from verbal cues, assistance with spelling and grammar, or physical supervision if the kids are doing something dangerous such as cleaning up trash along a busy highway. (Dad volunteered to help with that one.)

I should have fully realized the problems I would face when I read that Webpage Design allowed for a much higher level of adult assistance than any of the other projects. I soon discovered the reasons. After days and days of browsing and reading on the internet, and several unsuccessful trips to the local library, I realized I would never figure out how to make a simple - ha, webpage. To make matters worse, my son appeared to have totally lost interest in fulfilling his obligation to make the webpage now that he was committed.

Well, mom is not often a quitter, so I told him sternly that the upcoming weekend would be devoted to making his webpage. Then the weekend came and I chickened out. Then I allowed guilt to consume me and I finally got down to business.

Surprisingly, once he got started, my son became engrossed in the process. He spent hours searching for a profile picture - he was very specific and knew exactly what he wanted. Then I figured out enough to show him how to pick out a template and background colors. Soon he was telling me to go find something else to do, he had it covered. He was importing pictures and gadgets, and rearranging the page, and I felt like a third thumb.

Then he decided he wanted music on his webpage. I spent hours on the phone with Author Cornell Deville, who is a genius, by the way, following his instructions on how to transfer a playlist onto a blog. It turned out to be a very simple process, but my ineptitude kept getting in the way of things, and I couldn't figure it out.

So now he has a blog, which I made sure, before even beginning the process, would be accepted as a webpage for the project competition. Unfortunately, he received lots of comments on his first post, and now it looks as though he wants to use it like a Facebook account to banter back and forth with those who have left comments. The next hurdle will be to get him to continue making new posts on a regular basis.

It's great to watch your child grow and take pride in a job well done. It's also great to harbor hopes that said child may continue in your footsteps and follow a path that is daunting, often misunderstood, but always rewarding in the end.

Hope everyone has a blessed day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this little tale. The inclusion of Mr. Shakespeare made it quite entertaining, especially with his attitude toward what was going on in the inn, and everyone else seemed to be clueless about it.

The villains in the story were quite ruthless, which gave it an air of foreboding, but in a way that even young readers would find entertaining and somewhat lighthearted. Although, I felt a little squeamish at times with the fate of many of the residents.

Overall, an enjoyable read, and I would not hesitate to pick up another book by the same author.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 12, 2012


So, I know it's after five o'clock, but that sort of counts for afternoon, doesn't it? It's been a very busy day.

But I promised that I would announce the winner of an autographed copy of Wolf Storm by Dee Garretson, so I tore myself away from government paperwork to conduct a very sophisticated drawing for the contest. Hopefully I will figure out Rafflecopter one of these days, but for now I had to rely on a less technologically advanced system. I promise, it was fair, just no bells and whistles.

Without further ado, I want to send congratulations to Ruth Donnelly! If she will kindly come back over here and provide me with an address, I will get back with Dee and make sure she gets her book!

That's it for today, folks. Short, but sweet for Ruth. I hope your weekend is ending with awesomeness. It's supposed to maybe snow a bit more here tonight, so I'm totally Twitterpated.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Okay, so I totally made up that word. But it’s appropriate for today’s post, because I’m an habitual editor, and it seems as though I have a problem with catching missing conjunctions. To be honest, it isn’t limited to only conjunctions, but for such small, unobtrusive words, they seem to be the biggest problem.

For whatever reason, many of the conjunctions I think I type never actually show up on the page. And the weird thing is, when I read through my manuscript while proofing, I see them anyway. And so, apparently, does spell check, because it never picks up that a word is missing in my document.

I have no clues as to why this happens. This unintentional omission of certain words seems to plague many authors, because I run across it in published books quite often. And I’ve caught it in manuscripts I’m proofing for other writers. Perhaps it is somehow connected with that weird test that goes around Facebook every so often, where a ridiculously written block of gibberish text is presented for reading, and the eye is able to parse the entire block with ease, even though it contains not one single legitimate word.

Perhaps you don’t experience this problem, and if not, that’s great! Please share your secrets for avoiding it. I know that one extremely helpful tool is to arm yourself with reliable Beta readers. A Beta reader does not have your story ingrained in her/his head, so whatever is actually on the page is what she/he will see, so the gaping holes, although miniscule, where those missing words should be, will stand out on the page. Another trick would be to read your entire manuscript backwards, but I think you’ll agree that a Beta exchange would be a much better use of your time and efforts.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Remember, we are holding a book giveaway by author Dee Garretson. All you have to do to get into the drawing is leave a comment on her Wolf Storm interview below, and follow this blog. Completely painless, and your efforts could result in a signed copy of a thrilling action/adventure novel. The drawing will happen Sunday afternoon, so you don’t have much time left to get in on the action.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Author Interview and Book Giveaway!

I’m very pleased to announce that today I am conducting my second author interview. I hope this is a feature that will continue, and that it will help to inform readers of great new books available for their reading pleasure.

Today’s featured author is Dee Garretson. Recently I had the opportunity to read her Wolf Storm, a fast-paced adventure story that sent shivers up my spine, for more than one reason. Oh, and as a special surprise and incentive, Dee has most graciously offered to give away a signed hardcopy of Wolf Storm to one lucky reader here on my blog. I’ll explain the details at the end of our interview.

Thank you so much, Dee, for stopping by today and allowing us this time to get to know a little about you and your characters. If I haven't already told you, I enjoyed Wolf Storm quite a lot. Am I correct in stating that this is your second book published by Harper Collins? And did you have an agent for your books?

Yes, my first book, Wildfire Run, and Wolf Storm, were both published by HarperCollins. I did have an agent for them. Since then, I left my original agent, due to some differences of opinion on a career path, and now have a new agent.

I’m sorry to hear you had to change agents, but I realize a writer and agent team has to work well together at all times, and that it sometimes takes a while to find the perfect match. Hopefully this new relationship will work out great for both of you.

Could you give us a short description of your book?

Sure. This is Stefan’s big break. He’s on location in the mountains far from home for his first movie role, filming a blockbuster sci-fi adventure. The props, the spaceships, and the trained wolves on set should add up to a dream job, but acting turns out to be much tougher than he ever imagined, and he feels like his inner loser is all that’s showing through. From the way his famously stuck-up co-star, Raine, treats him, he’s pretty sure she thinks so too. And worst of all, no one will believe his claim that there are wild wolves haunting the forest around the set.

When a blizzard strikes, isolating the young co-stars and bringing hungry feral wolves into the open, Stefan must take on his biggest role yet—working together with his co-stars to survive. With no second takes, they only have one chance to get it right.


Well, there is certainly a lot of great action in this one. I'd like to know what inspired you to write this story. Do you have a background in film? You certainly seem to know a lot about the industry - but since I know nothing, maybe it wasn't difficult to fool me. It was very believable, for me, to feel like you knew what you were talking about.

Harper wanted some ideas for other outdoor adventures with different characters from the Wildfire Run book. I wanted to do the same “fish out of water” kind of characters-kids in the wilderness who weren’t all that comfortable there. I also love movies, almost as much as books, and have always been fascinated with the making of movies. I’ve never had a desire to act, but I find kids who do to be interesting characters. I had already read books and watched many behind-the-scenes dvds on movie-making, so I had a starting point to know what further research I needed.

 That’s quite interesting. Your technical language sounded totally believable, and added quite a bit of interest to the story. I can see where it would definitely appeal to kids who were interested in theater or acting. And the fact that your characters were making a science fiction film also added to the allure.

I also love the role the wolves play in the book. I’m a huge dog fan, and even though these were technically wolves, not domesticated dogs, they drew me into the story.  Have you personally worked with wolves? Perhaps you've raised them and were able to provide details through your own experiences. Or did you just read about them on-line, or take your cues from other canines?

I have never worked with wolves but I think they are amazing animals. I got the idea to use trained wolves in the story from the first Chronicles of Narnia movie. When I watched it, I was very interested in how they trained those wolves for their scenes, so I did some research on that. I also did quite a bit of research on wolf behavior, because I wanted the wild wolves to be portrayed accurately as well. You can probably tell I’m a stickler for research!

Yes, I noticed that. The ways you portrayed the behaviors of the wolves, both wild and trained, was completely believable to me. I actually became rather attached to Phoebe, and my heart went out to the wild creatures.

Speaking of the wild, I'd also like to touch on the area where your story takes place. Is there such a castle? If not, why a castle? Why not just an old house of some kind? Don't get me wrong, I loved the castle - my first book out with Musa has a castle in it, too.

There are many ruins of small castles in Slovakia, which were more like stone manor houses. I just love the image of a ruined castle, and when I travel to Europe, those sites are ones I try to visit. There’s something about castles that implies a romantic history and untold stories.

I agree completely. It’s hard to find a backdrop more fascinating than a castle, especially one hidden away in the snow-covered mountains. Which brings me to my next question. Are you a skier? Snowmobiler? (I don't know if that's even a word). It just seems like you covered a lot of details that would require research, and I'm wondering where you found your facts or if it's from personal knowledge.

I skied quite a bit when I was younger. Now, because I have asthma that’s gotten more severe, I go rarely, though the rest of my family loves to ski. Last year while they were skiing, I went snowshoeing in the woods and that was almost as much fun. I’d like to get back out on the slopes if I can get the asthma better under control and get my lung capacity back up. I love being outside in the snow, and always have, though I have a healthy respect for the dangers of bad weather. I almost got frostbite as a child when I went skiing in Germany, so I’m very aware of how quickly things can go wrong.

Oh, Dee, I’m sorry to hear about the asthma problems. I hope you get your health back to full power soon so that you can get back to something you love so much.

Another thing I wondered about was your intended audience. Did you target this more toward boys? You did a great job of using the teen male POV, but you have several themes that would definitely also appeal to young girls. Boy actor, wolves, acting, and Raine is a pretty strong female character. I'd love to know your strategic reasons for that, if there were any.

Writing from a boy’s POV comes fairly easily to me, though I’m sure I don’t get it right all the time. I was not a very girly girl growing up, and I started writing middle grade after my son begged me to read some of his books. They were all from a boy’s POV, and the way the stories flowed seemed to fit a style I felt comfortable using. My son is always my first beta reader and he tells me if I’m on target. Right now I’m working on a new story for a girl’s POV and it has been much more challenging.

Well, I’m thankful to your son for providing you with so many opportunities to learn your craft well enough to execute such a gripping story. And it is gripping! Every page is filled with action, or tension, or mystery, or some combination of the three. I applaud you for your ability to keep the reader in such a heightened state of expectation throughout the entire book.

Thank you so much, Dee, for coming by and allowing us to get a closer look at your personal life. I know we all have a tendency to idolize our favorite authors, and it’s nice to know they are still human. I wish you the best of success in your writing career, and I urge my readers to check out your books and see for themselves what we’re talking about here.

Thank you, Melody! I love to have a chance to talk about my stories.

Wolf Storm is available in some bookstores and at all online sites. It's also available in ebook form. Wildfire Run is available in hardcover, paperback, and audio. It may still be in some bookstores, but it is definitely available at online sites as well.

I hope everyone enjoyed my interview with Dee as much as I did. She’s a gifted writer and a very nice lady. To register for an opportunity to win an autographed copy of her book, simply follow my blog and leave a comment. And since this is a hard copy book, you’ll need to provide an email address so that I can notify the winner and obtain mailing information.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Word of the Day - Twitterpated!

It’s February! The month set aside for Love.
Such a lovely word, love. It conjures up a vast array of images and feelings. I’m not speaking only of the romantic notion of love, although that is certainly the big seller for the commercial world.  I envision more of a whole mind and body experience when I think of love in the February sense. So in that vein, I thought I would explore my most favorite word to express my feelings of love. That word is Twitterpated.
As far as I know, the word Twitterpated – it makes me smile just to think it – first became known to the public when Walt Disney’s Bambi debuted, back in 1942. The only definition I came across was rather vague, but in general the word describes a rare condition we experience when love first strikes us without warning. Our head, or pate, goes all aflutter, or twitters.
Of course, in the movie, the wise old owl used the word Twitterpated to describe the hilarious antics of the forest animals as spring arrived and they began their courtship rituals. Ah, young love. Is there anything sweeter? As a matter of fact, yes, there is.
CHOCOLATE! I must admit that chocolate has the power to twitterpate me. The smell alone can nearly put me in a coma. Whether it’s dark and tangy, or light and smooth, it makes my olfactory senses twitter in anticipation of that first luscious bite. Thus, I’ve been Twitterpated. Obviously, from the sales of heart-shaped boxes that Russell Stovers alone puts out every February, I’m not the only one.
That’s all I have for today. If you have an opportunity to use this lovely word in your writing any time soon, please come back and let me know. It’s a fun word, and I’d enjoy seeing how all of you can find a way to incorporate it into a story. (Did you catch the challenge I just threw out to you?)
Have a wonderful first day of February. Start thinking of ways to surprise your Valentine, and if you don’t have one yet, don’t give up. You may become Twitterpated without any warning.