Thursday, April 28, 2011

XYZ and the end of the road

I'm feeling the end for so many reasons this week.  Part of me is relieved and the other is sad.

Relieved because there's nothing like coming to the end of something and saying, "YES! Take that!!!"  The other emotion is, "Great. What's next?"

I've been in school for the last...*mumbles incoherently* years and I'm finally seeing the end of the light. Yet during that time I've also written half a dozen books, raised seven children, put my husband through his own schooling, kept my house in order (mostly) and served in my community. How did I do it?

Balance, baby.

Yet all good things must come to an end. We must have goals. We must have dreams. We must have closure. Like the alphabet game. Ever go on a road trip before tv's and dvd players? Then you most likely played the alphabet game.  "A!" someone yells and points to a sign, while a chorus of A's shout round about you.  The next goal was finding a B, then a C and so on. The hardest was always the X, Y, Z and right there at the end when you were all tuckered out.  You wanted to be done. You wanted to win. You wanted to go to the bathroom, but Dad wasn't pulling over for the umpteenth time!

The key was always Las Vegas. Really? Uh, yeah actually. As kids it meant we were near Zzyzx Road. Yes, like in the movie. Although I'd never heard of it until looking for today's image. Looks creepy (the movie, not the image), and nothing like the welcome sign that it always was to us; signaling the end of a very long game. It meant the chance to move on to something new. Something exciting. A bathroom! Awwww, come on Dad.

Kind of like publishing a book.  Or writing a month's worth of blogs while going to school. Finishing school! (almost there...almost there) You're happy to have finished the game, but you're ready to begin the adventure anew. Like the writer's conference I'm attending at the end of the month. :)

So next week I'll be back with more, because my brain is full of all sorts of things.  Mostly good. Muwah ah ah. I've enjoyed the ride, playing the alphabet game, and hope you'll come along for the next one I take. Because, baby...

You ain't seen nothing yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

V is for Vlog and W is for Why

So yeah, why have a vlog? And what on earth is it?  I'm still learning all the finer points myself, but I do know that it's something I look forward to doing in the near future.  Why? Because they're cool! I mean, how much fun is it to watch someone talk to you as though you're sitting in your own private seminar. Um...duh.

I even considered trying my hand at one to post this week, but you me camera shy. Well, not really, in fact I'm kind of a ham. So yeah, I can totally see myself diggin' this v-log thing.  Once I figure it out.

I've watched a couple so far and totally loved them.  How fun to see and hear people in person! (So to speak.) Because sometimes words just aren't enough.  I mean they paint a great picture and all, but how about one that moves and talks and teaches you about themselves and a topic all at the same time?

Great, right???!!!!!  I know!  So there's the what and the why. Now I just have to tackle the when.  :) And the how.

How about you? What vlogs have you seen, enjoyed the most, or could recommend to an aspiring ham...I mean vlogger like me? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

S-T-U-pendous Websites

These next three letters are brought to you courtesy of one very grateful writer. :)

Enjoy this fabulous list of sites I visit and discover for yourselves why they deserve to be loved!!!

Agent Kristin--Pub Rants Because she knows everything about publishing. Seriously.  Someday I want her to know who I am. :)
Aprilynne Pike--Apparently!  Young Adult Author and fabulous contest provider. :)
Dear Teen Me-- Because, like them, there are things I wish I knew when I was a teen.
Debbie--Cranberry fries  Cause fries. Yes, I love Debbie, too. :)
Dierdra Eden Coppel--A Storybook World  Gorgeous Artist and Fantasy Phenom!
Elena Johnson-- Young Adult Author and Master of the Query! *bows in awe*
Jody Hedlund-- Amazing author and speaker with words of wisdom MWF! And on facebook...and twitter...and email... So much encouragement! I can't get enough!
Kiersten Writes--  YA rocks and so does she. Just sayin'.
Kristin Baker Przybyla--Fairies and Pirates, etc.  Because how can you just not love everything about that name!!!
Laura Pauling--Exercising the Right to Ramble  The name says it all! So do her invaluable email updates!
Rachelle Gardner--Rants and Ramblings  Because agent info is soooo crucial...and fun!
Roni Loren--Fiction Groupie --Romance Writer and facilitator of my first Editor's critque!!

Sarah M. Eden--Historical Romance Author  INFF Guru!!
Shelli Proffitt Howells--A*Musings  Fiction Friday, Crit Group, and owner of the Toolbox extraordinaire! I could fill a blog post on Shelli alone.
Tana Adams--White Platonic Dreams   Just trust me. :)
WriteOnCon  If I have to explain this one...

And the list goes on!!

What others would you add to my list? Who do you follow that makes a difference for you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Redo

Redo's are awesome.

When I quizzed my daughters about things they'd like a second chance at, they came up with:
  1. Personality/image
  2. Things they've said to people
  3. Friends they've chosen
  4. Tests
  5. Classes
  6. Bad decisions
Yeah... there's a lot of things we'd like to redo in life.  And sometimes we get a second chance.  Like a paper I just wrote. The teacher recognized it was less than my usual and asked me if I would consider redoing it.  I've never had a teacher offer that before. I was touched.

And of course I said yes.  Because sometimes lessons learned are good and we wouldn't trade them, but how cool if we could get the lesson AND get a do-over.  :)

Rejection is a bit like a re-do.  "Getting" the chance to re-evaluate our work and see if there is any room for improvement. And of course there is. There always is.  I've not heard of an author yet who didn't have some sort of regret for some part of their book.  Maybe it's just them being humble.  Maybe it's the truth.  But no matter what, I believe there is always a place for improvement.

And redo's.  :)

What do you think? What would you redo if you were given the chance?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Query

Wait...what happened to P?

Oh. That. Well, P is for Perfect...which I'm not.  :)  Yesterday was insane and I didn't get to do a lot of what I wanted to do. Including blogging. But it's okay. I got done the things that were utterly crucial and that's the important thing. So yeah, yesterday was perfect in that regard. :)

But today we're talking about the letter Q!!!!  Q is for queries.  Hurrah!  And the total I've sent so far comes to a whopping...


That's right folks. I've sent out one query letter to date. "Wait, why not more?" Better to ask why I even sent the one.  I knew it wasn't ready. I wasn't ready. I knew I wouldn't buy the book if I received the one I got. But what I also know is that I have a wonderful and loving husband who wanted me to try.

He saw an opportunity and my trepidation and didn't like seeing me so scared.  

"But I'll get rejected, hon."
"But it can't hurt to try. And knowing it's not ready means a rejection won't hurt as bad."


It still hurt. Terribly.  But a day later he was right.  I had just racked up my first rejection (yes, I got rejected within 24 hours) and had successfully gotten over that initial fear.  There's still plenty more to come (fear and attempts) and I learned a lot in the process. I mean, hey, I did honestly try and write a good query. I really do want to be published.  But...I also know where I stand with my query and I'm not going to waste an agent's time when even I know it's not ready.

So how do you know when you're ready?  Seriously, I'm asking.  Because there are blogs and helpful sites up the wazoo, conferences and sessions just for this topic, and so how on earth do you know that it's good enough to send.

You send it.  :)  Okay, first you ask other writers. Other readers. Friends, family, critique groups, blog contests designed just for querying (actually did that once myself)... And tons of other help out there to get you prepared.  In fact, Elana Johnson is probably the foremost authority in the writing world when it comes to queries.  She talks about queries here, she played a valuable role in the establishment of query tracker, and even released her ebook From the Query to the Call for free here.  :) 

Love you Elana!!!!

Aren't writers wonderful?!  No where else have I seen others work so hard to help others succeed.  Maybe it's because we know we're not in competition with each other. There are plenty of readers to go around, and always hungry for another story. :) And they're just waiting for that moment when a new title appears. When you succeed in getting it published.  But first, you need to garner some interest. By writing a query. :)

So, how will you know that you're ready? Ideas? Suggestions? Successes you'd like to share?  :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Octopus

Mom. Wife. Student. Friend. Teacher. Warden. Cook. Chauffeur. Therapist. Nurse. Surgeon. Seamstress. Hairstylist. Sanitation Worker. Gardener. Writer?

Ever feel like you need more hands?  Yeah, me too.  I'm seriously considering life as an Octopus.

But until I make that impossibility happen, I do this little thing called balancing my time. Otherwise known as...


So why didn't you put that word at the top? Because Octopus is a much cooler word, and a whole lot easier to wish for than say...being organized!!!

It's a beautiful word, but sometimes a little tricky to carry out.  It requires thinking (gasp!) and planning (what's that?) and sometimes a little help from various little octopi (you know who you are).

My best method for getting organized is in making lists. At the start of each day I make a list of things I want to accomplish by the end of it. Small things, big things, things that I want to get done and things that I NEED to get done.  And they don't necessarily have to be in order.  Just put down in front of me so I can be actively thinking about them and working on them.  Sometimes that act alone is enough to get me moving and keep me focused.

And it is worth it, because you see I do enjoy doing things like writing and watching 3-D movies on our new TV.  But I can't justify doing those things until some other things get done. Like laundry. (I swear the washing machine ATE your socks, kids!!)

What do you do to get/stay organized?  Any tips or secrets for budgeting your time? Do you have a specific writing time, or do you have to squeeze it in like a typical octopus? :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for No

Two small letters. So much pain.

"No, you can't have another cookie." "No, you can't stick the fork into the plug just because it fits. I'm so proud that you're brilliant enough to deduce the connection, but don't actually MAKE the connection please."

And the dreaded...."No, I'm sorry we're not interested in your book."

I've only gotten one of those so far, and I'm pretty sure I deserved it.  I queried before I was ready, and yet my husband wanted me to overcome my fear and just try.  Because you see, not all "No's" come because something is forbidden.  Sometimes they are there simply to protect us. From embarassment. From harm. Or because the person you're asking simply is not the right one to help you.

JK Rowling collected a huge stack of rejections as did Shannon Hale. As did every author who went down the same road. The road to publishing.  It's a tricky one to be sure, and a painful journey mixed in with all the bliss.  We love writing. We want to be published. But, "what do you mean you don't like my book?" The nerve.

It's like the, "Will you dance with me?" followed by that awful two letter word.  Forget about the four letter ones.  This one's more painful. Probably because we want it so bad. We want that dance. We want the reward for putting ourselves on the line and asking that difficult question. Maybe someday I'll get a yes, just like my husband did when he asked me to dance. Then asked me to marry him. Those were magical nights, but only after a ton of risk. Putting yourself on the line and asking the question.

Just like with an agent. I hope to make that magical connection some day. Where I'll ask, "Do you want to dance? Because I've worked really hard to make this book everything it can be and I'm ready to share it with someone." And soon. So...anyone want to dance? Because me? I'm not even close to being done asking.  I've only just begun. And I won't take no for an answer.

What do you do when you get a "No?"  Do you give up? Press on and stick that stupid fork in the socket anyway? Or ask another parent and see if you get a different answer?  :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Memoirs

Don't do it!

At least the part about trying to publish them in the mass market. Because the reflections upon one's life and the choices they've made are best suited for family and friends, not the masses.

At least that's what I hear. The exception are famous people who have experiences that somehow include the general public...and thus make them marketable.

Now that's not to say that you can't write your memoirs.  Heck, I've already started writing mine. But I call it a personal history.  An accounting of my life, with various details that perhaps my children and my someday grandchildren might want to know about me. I wrote them at the request of my mother.(Have you gathered how influential my mother was to me?) She saw the value in keeping a record. Not only for ourselves but for our posterity.  Because who we are is important to know. Important to our family and friends and perhaps a few others.

Not for the masses.

Of course your life may be such that you need it in print, because hey! you actually saw who killed JFK. Or your life has touched so many people that they are the mass you're trying to reach. Aside of that though, not many of us will have lives that will interest the public. At least not enough that people would pay to read about them.

I wish it were different.  I wish that everyone could appreciate the value of our individual lives, and perhaps reward us for the time we've spent. Because yes, I too believe that so much experience just shouldn't go to waste. But I guess that's what blogs are for.  So embrace them. Share them. Write about those things that you want the world to see. Because by golly, if you can't put them in a blog because they're too personal to share, then you shouldn't be publishing them for the mass market either.  Just sayin'.

Do you have a personal memory that you think would benefit the world? Would you be willing to share, even if you wouldn't get paid?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Letters

Yes. Letters. Although after yesterday's post you were probably expecting something more like lips. Of course I could mention both.  You know, like how we used to write those innocent love notes, lick and seal them in the envelope and then put the big lipstick covered kiss on the back.

You never did that?  Well I did. It was fun. It was intimate.  Unlike some of the more modern day exchanges. I mean I love emails. I do. And Facebook rocks! I mean think of all those people I've lost touch with over the years. Found you!  But somehow posting on my husband's wall just doesn't feel the same. Or my sister's. Or my children's.

In fact, I remember the days when I used to put I love you notes into my children's lunch boxes on the first day of school. Or when they were having a difficult week.  Now I send them a hug on Facebook. Or text them a "How are you?"  Granted we still have this fun thing where they write to me in a journal (just for us) and tell me all sorts of things they're worried or thinking about; then I write back.  With so many kids it gives us a chance to talk to one another without being interrupted.

But now I realize that it's also preserving a lost art of hand-written notes and personal messages.

My mom and Grandma were big on notes. And letters. Their individual handwriting was unique to them. Almost as unique as the things they would say and share.  It was an art form in and of itself. A dying art that I never prescribed to by the way. My handwriting stunk, so I wrote very few letters.  That and I could never find a stupid stamp.

The internet has made it so much faster and convenient for me to stay in touch with people. And with proper care I think it can be just as personal. Still...nothing gets my heart beating like a hand written note. Especially from those I love. There's just something so warm and friendly about it all. The time they took to write it out, spell check it while they did so, and then find a stamp to actually send it to me. Precious.

Of course I'll take a letter in any form...but nothing will ever beat the smell of paper, perfume and love that transcends the distance using a hand written letter.

What about you? What memories do you have of hand written letters? Do you still enjoy getting them or prefer the modern conveniences just as much?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kiss


I love kisses. The real ones (okay the chocolate as well, but we already covered candy yesterday). They're my favorite part of a book. The romance. The tension. The unrequited love that finds its way into the pages of just about every book I pick up.  Especially those geared towards teens.

Do you remember your first kiss? Or are you trying to forget it? :) Mine was magical. And, okay, a little awkward. I mean, it's the moment girls dream about forever (all the ones I know anyway) and that alone has the potential to make or break it. Forever remembered. Forever haunting.

As in my current WIP.  It started with a kiss scene. Well, it doesn't "start" with a kiss scene, but it was the catalyst to a lot of the angst my protagonist is going through. And boy howdy, what a kiss.  I mean, it changes lives.  Seriously.  None of my other ideas hang so importantly on a kiss. But this one does. Oh the things I share.  :)  Well, you'll just have to read for yourself when it comes out. Not if...when. Because the world needs to experience this kiss. Seriously.

How about you? Any of you have a momentous kiss that changed your life? How about your characters? Do you ever find yourself rewriting your first kiss in your stories?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jelly Bellies

I love Jelly Bellies. Or is it Jelly Bellys? You know, the Jelly Belly candy. They're super expensive, but oh so worth it.

They're just one of the many snacks that work best for me while writing, popping one or two in my mouth at a time and feeling the mix of flavors combine to make something more than just themselves.  Seems wholly appropriate when it comes to writing, doesn't it?

But it brings up other memories and emotions as well that get me to giggling.

I remember the hilarious evening I spent with two of my sisters-in law over an enormous bucket of Jelly Bellies. The husbands were in the living room playing video games, while we were in the kitchen plotting a war of our own, turning an innocent candy into a means of torture.  Ever tried popcorn flavor with grape jelly? Yeah, the guys didn't think much of it either.  But we thought it was only fair since they were hitting us up for snacks. So yeah, time after time we popped multiple concoctions in their unsuspecting mouths, taking advantage of the fact that their hands were too busy.  They couldn't spit them out and their eyes were too focused on the game to pay attention to what we were doing.

At first.

They caught on quickly that it wasn't a fluke and refused to take anything more from us.  Cool.  Now we were free to eat the rest of the bucket ourselves and laugh the rest of the night away in the kitchen.

Now, why on earth am I telling you this?  Because this is the stuff that characters are made of.  How we can use scenes to depict one's character, motives, or deviousness.  Just like this. Already you have a different image of me. Yes? No?  That's okay. I'll share one more experience if you really want me to. Or you can share one of your own. Or both.

 How about it? You share one, then I'll share one. And maybe we can learn a little more about each other in the process.  Plus it'll be great practice for all those character sketches you're going to do now. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Internet (what else)

My family and I watched Tron this weekend.  Both the original Tron and Tron Legacy. Wow.  It was so nostalgic to see the original flick that was sooooooo high tech back in my day, and realize how weird it was that I lived in the days before the World Wide Web.

The content of the original movie was as disbelieving as the early animation to my beautiful teens, and they laughed almost the entire way through.  I provided my own commentary though and told them that both the technology and their cool graphics in Legacy would be obsolete in another 20 years as well.  They concurred.

The world is changing fast, and the internet makes us aware of it even faster. :)  Not that I'm complaining (well, maybe a little). I mean, I love progress. I love the advances. But sometimes the stuff you find on the internet is less than pleasant to behold.

My oldest daughter just finished a report on internet filtering, and the debate about whose responsibility it is to enforce.  Is it the parents'? The teachers'? The content owners'? How about the government?  It was a great topic for her to debate and interesting to get her views and take on the matter.  I'm proud that she thought parents should take a more active role in protecting their children, regardless of what any one else chose to do.  And that kids shouldn't try to get around filters meant to protect them....but then my daughter is unique.

There's a lot of information out there, and a lot of kids who want it all.  Adults, too.  It's a beautiful thing called freedom of speech. I love it. Really I do.  But it also means diligence, patience, and a darn good filtering system my husband installed. It's so good that it kept me from blogging a few months back.  I had to have him take me off the network so I could actually post youtube videos on my blog. He had chosen to block them because the kids were spending too much time watching them and not enough time on homework.

I tend to fall into a similar trap, but with social media and research. Which leads me to today's question. How do you monitor your time on the internet to maximize it as a resource? Do you have a program to help you monitor your time? Do you have a schedule you follow and monitor yourself? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and say, "To heck with a schedule. Long live the internet!!!"  :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Home

Home. What a fantastic place it is. And despite my physical depiction, home is not simply a structure. That would be a house.

Home is everything that it represents. The people inside. The location it sits. The reason you live where you live. And the place you return to when you feeling a longing or need.

The need to remember good times. Or bad ones. A place where memories shape us and mold us; give us hope. I had a wonderful home growing up.  It was beautiful and sunny, as was the state we lived in. :)  It was also noisy, busy, and always full of people.  Perfect. Except when it wasn't.

At times like those I would often retreat to my room and don my headphones, blocking out the other activities and entering my own little world.  That world often included reading, and then eventually writing.  I found comfort and security in my wonderful home, but also escape when I needed through reading and writing.

I wrote my first book in the summer before 8th grade after taking a typing class the previous year.  I learned on a manual typewriter, where any mistake you made was permanent and I scrounged for any kind of paper to type on as I created my world. And the discovery of white out to correct my mistakes. One thing was for certain though.  Writing changed me.  I was a sleuth, brave and true, epitomizing a true heroine at the time by the name of Trixie Belden.  What a fantastic series that was and what a wonderful role model her character was to young girls everywhere. Teaching us how to solve mysteries and fight the good fight, along with her two brothers and multiple friends.

Strangely it reminded me of my own life, but where my one true hero was none other than my mother. My mom was this huge ray of sunshine that never dimmed. Even at night.  She'd often sit by my bedside and we'd stay late up talking. We'd talk about school, boys, and all of my fears. And hers.  She was always gentle but honest with me, helping me to discover myself (in a house full of boys). Home was wonderful that way. Where I could receive love and gentle encouragement, securing its place in my life as the source of all wisdom.

Before she died my mom told me I was a gifted writer.  And that I never gave up. And both things combined would one day get me published.

I can't wait to prove her right.

What does home mean to you? Do you have fond memories of it?  Any heroes or heroines that have inspired your life?

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Goals

I love goals.  You do too, even though you may not realize it.

You see, in order to even "fail" you need something in which to fail from: aka, a goal.  My daughter often quotes a wonderful phrase.  "If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?"

I love that.  How many of us are actively "trying" to fail at something.  Okay, there may be a few.  Like if there is something you hate to do, then maybe you'll fail so that someone won't ask you to do it again.  Or not. You could possibly just be setting yourself up for multiple heartache by ignoring the hard things.  I'm a firm believer in goals because as the saying goes, "If you don't know where you're going...any road will take you there."

20 years ago I made a goal to finish college, in spite of the fact that I was putting it on hold to put my husband through first.  There wasn't enough money to go around, so I said "You first."  And looking back I have no regrets.  I got to raise 7 beautiful children, all of which still live at home, two of which were born after I started back to school some 9 years ago.

Yes. It took me 8 years to get my associates degree. And after this semester I'll only have one year left for my bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing.

I believe you can do anything if you set your mind to it.  But first you need to make a goal in order to set your plan in motion.  I want to be a writer.  So I study writing, practice writing, talk to other writers and learn from them. Done. Goal accomplished.  Now I want to be published.  So I write some more, take classes, learn about querying, attend multiple workshops and conferences, and edit to my heart's content (and then some).

And it doesn't stop there.  Once I've been published, there will be tons to do. Including writing even more and trying to get that published as well. The cycle never ends!  Isn't it great????  :)  Yeah, I think so too.

How about you? What do you think about goals are and where do you go for help in accomplishing them?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Fellow Dreamers

You know who you are. And a lot of you make yourself known by blogging, emailing, and through the little conglomerate of boxes on the right side bar.  [waves to everyone looking back at me]  And there are even those following me quietly through subscription and peeking into my ramblings to see what I'm up to each week.  And support me in my writing endeavors.

Thank you. Thank you all!

Because even though goals and dreams are exciting and fun, they're also hard and sometimes a little challenging to reach.  You are the ones giving me a boost over the wall as I try and reach the top. And yet what's great is there are those of us that don't wait to reach the top before giving others a boost.

Like in rock climbing. Where there's people on top and there are people below, with both groups shouting encouragement and lending a physical hand. The ones on top help provide the path and show you the way--helping you out, while also proving that you can reach your goal.  The ones below--the ones who haven't even started yet--are holding the rope and pulling you up.

Pulling you up? Yup. Isn't that strange? That in rock climbing the one below you pulls the rope and keeps you from falling.  Just in case you lose your footing. Friends, fans, fellow writers are the life force of any good writer. We need each other.

So today, I say thank you for all that you are to me. All you give to me. The courage to keep going, and helping me feel the thrill of the climb.

What about you? Any one in particular who has helped you along? Who holds the rope for you? Who's paved the way?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for the Electronic Era

I can't believe how much the world has changed in the last 20 years.  We went from vinyl to viral and from paper to pads (iPads, kindles, nooks...).  Gone are the days when I pick up my walkman to go running--what's a walkman? you say. You know, those cool little rectangles that held other rectangles of music you had to buy from the store on the corner. In a time that if you wanted anything that didn't come over the radio you had to go out and get it yourself.


Then things began to change.  Almost overnight came the internet. Then CD players. Then streaming music. Then publishing sites. Then downloadable books.... Okay, I probably skipped a few steps in there.  I wasn't watching every single move that was made.  But I remember the day I looked back and realized how fast everything was changing around me.

My 7 yr old daughter asked for an iPod for Christmas. And I said yes.  Well, actually I bought her a simple mp3 player for the little I knew she'd use it. After all, she's only 7 and likes to change her mind...often. (I was right, btw) I thought about all the boom boxes upstairs that have stopped working, the non-functioning CD units, all the eaten tapes in the cassette portions, and the mass of crystal boxes scattered around my house that were made to house the media that went into these huge paperweights. And an mp3 player sounded about right.

And then I thought about the kid shows of my youth that now have furry monsters e-mailing one another and typing letters on the screen. Instead of writing them. And I felt sad. Of course e-mail is fast and I love how it moves, but there was something about my mother's handwriting and watching her forehead furrow in concentration as she scrawled out her notes. She's gone now, too.

I recently acquired an iPad. I love my iPad. Almost as much as my husband who gave it to me.  And I've found myself reading quite a few books off of it.  And I can adjust the word size, so that my aging eyes don't have to work quite so hard. Those words will do what I want, when I want. On demand. No waiting. No store hours to keep track of if I run out of words and want to find more.

And yet...I know that regardless of my new e-reading habits, I'll still buy the hardback when it comes out. So I can hold it in my lap and smell the fresh clean pages. Pages filled with sweat, tears, hard work and nostalgia; for how fast the world is changing and the difficult questions it sometimes poses in the process. In that moment, all the dystopian novels that I love to read come rushing towards me and strike a sensitive nerve about a future day with no physical books. Especially as I found myself typing out notes on my iPad, instead of with my pen and paper. In fact, I was in the doctor's office the other day with my daughter and needed to write something down.

I struggled to find a pen.  My daughter responded, "But you're a writer, Mom. You always have a pen." But not that morning.  I had to pull out my electronic slate and handy stylus, open up a note app and quickly write down the needed information.  Instead of feeling hip and cool, I felt sort of sad.  I missed the feel of the pen and the look of my own handwriting on the page. I had worked SO HARD on that handwriting over the years. Not that it did much good. I didn't learn how to type so fast for nothing. But still...

It was kind of surreal; all the changes in my life. Some I like, some I'm still trying to weigh out.  I don't want books to disappear off the literal shelves. I don't.  I love being able to hand my child a book to read, and watch it be passed around to all their friends when they're done. All the little wrappers, tissues and notes I find tucked inside its pages as bookmarks when they're done. Just beautiful. It's a symbol of their life, their interests, and their love of reading.

Needless to say, we're big fans of technology and the advances it has made.  But when it comes to e-books I'm not sure I'm convinced.  You see, we still own vinyl records. And pull them out once in a while.  Why?  They remind me of times that moved a little slower. Quieter. Times that I could sit by the fire and  In the new digital age I feel a push to move ever faster.  And smarter. And keep up with the outside world so that I don't get left behind.

And I love books. The physical kind. I love the smell of cracking it open that first time, and the weight of the words in my hands. To hold knowledge at my literal fingertips is such a high (the only one I know btw). It's what I live for. Why I'm in school. And why I love researching topics for my creative writing.  And yes, the internet makes THAT part of my writing oh so much fun and move faster.  But when it comes time to read, nothing beats holding a book in my hand.

I love electronics. I do! I just hope the heat doesn't melt my unit if I fall asleep too close to the fireplace. :)

What about you? e-books and readers? Paper or plastic? Old or new?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dair

Dare...Dair...You get the picture.  Really. It's the little one on the right hand side with person in white and the beautiful trees in the background. That's me, not too long ago. Just after I got my braces off.

No, I'm not a teenager, though I had them as a teenager as well. No I didn't use invisible trays to fix them up. I had your standard run of the mill gray. Uncomfortable. Metal. That's what I did to fix them up. Why?  Well, the why is obvious. But you're probably wondering "Why now? At your age."

Because I like doing hard things.  No, I'm not crazy, I just enjoy living life and I'm not afraid to take risks to get what I want.

It all started back in high school. Well, long before that I'm sure, but that's when I really picked up speed.  I didn't intentionally do things just because they were hard (okay, sometimes I did. I hated being told what I could and couldn't do), but thought "What the heck," whenever I hit a roadblock. I guess I figured, what do I have to lose? Besides my pride.  But that's a good thing. A little humility sometimes goes a long way, and in the meantime you can discover a few undiscovered talents or interests.

For example: In 10th grade I tried out for the school play. Made call backs, but not finals. Promptly stomped my way out to where the track team was practicing and signed up. My brother followed me two weeks later. And every sibling after that.  They were much better runners than I was, or so I thought. My Mom called me a forerunner. A leader. And that many of my siblings would never have taken that step if not for me.

I ran, but not quite fast enough, so when coach said he needed a hurdler I decided, why not. I liked being unique and no one else was signing up. Then he needed a shot putter. And a high jumper. And, "Can you do all three at once?"

Heck! why not?

I went to CIF Prelims for hurdles my senior year.

On top of that I did...

Yearbook Staff.
Area Pageant.
Debate team
Writing competitions...

Each event pushed me harder than the previous one and challenged my personal fortitude.  To not be afraid of failure, or worry about the outcome.  Because doing nothing is easy and yet gets you nowhere.  Challenging yourself is hard, but reaps the biggest reward.

Like writing. Going back to school while raising a large family. Having a large family. But then, those are my dreams. The things I've dared myself to do. Because I think the outcome is worth it. What about you?

What have you dared yourself to dream? And what are you doing to make it happen?

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Children

And I have A LOT. And I love them all! I always wanted a big family. And not just because I came from one and enjoyed the experience. :)

My children are my greatest inspiration. My joy. My life. My alarm clock...

They are the reason that I write, and they fill my books with fodder. All their jokes, one-liners, teasing, fears, joys...they are the reason that I write. But they are also the things my kids feed to me and keep my topics current. Which helps because I totally write YA (surprise surprise).

I remember what it was like to be a kid. How hard everything was and how little adults understood and respected us...I mean them...I mean...I guess I still have a tender spot when it comes to kids. Probably due to the fact that I never grew up. So to speak.  I think teenagers totally rock. Always will. Because with everything they're entrusted with and expected to do, I think they deserve a little more respect. Even the trouble makers? Yes, it is my firm belief that respect itself breeds more respect. 

At least that's why the kids in band love me (according to my daughter). Because I don't talk down to them or treat them like lower class citizens.  Of course that doesn't mean I put up with their garbage, but I expect the best from adults as well. No double standards in this household, baby.  But it also means I know how to play with them and remember what it feels like to be young (even though I've got a few years on them). Soul Caliber? Bring it on. Button mashing to the ultimate extreme! Singing out loud and totally off key? Well, actually I can sing very well...but do so very loudly, so yeah.

Remember what it was like to have the whole world at your finger tips? To shoot for any dream and have it be okay, because there was so much time and so much to learn?

I think some adults have a hard time with kids because they are jealous. The adults. Not the kids.  We want to be like them. To start our life over and have a second chance at our dreams;sometimes projecting our fears and destroying those of our children. By trying to live vicariously through them in the name of keeping them from making the same mistakes we did.  Well, guess what folks.  They'll make them anyway.  You did. You lived for your freedom and the right to choose wrong.

I know it's hard when they fail and when they push back hard, but the best success I have seen is when you lead a child. Love a child. Not by forcing a child and thus losing their respect. If you lead by love it'll be a much softer ride. How do I know this?  I have children. As well, I have lots of brothers. And a sister. And in my youth my brothers pushed back a time or two. Or three or four.... And the thing they said that brought them back and kept them from making even more mistakes?


That my parents loved them in spite of it all. And showed them. They felt like they were able to come back...without retribution. Or without it being held over their head. Forever.

So I write for children. Because of course I'm jealous of all the things I wasn't brave enough to do. And that my kids do daily...and DARE me to do. Like go back to school when I'm so much older. And write a book.

So here's to my children. I love you all so much!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Blogging...and books...and boys...

Is that cheating? Wanting to write about more than one thing? How about I combine them all together into one perfect B.

Blogging about books for boys!

I have two perfect sons (on top of five perfect daughters), and they love to read. I sense that's unusual these days, but it's true nonetheless. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that my husband and I have always been voracious readers, and that early on we were poor, treating the library like our second home. We checked out books, taught each child how to read ourselves (oldest son is now graduating HS with honors and won a four year tuition scholarship to college), but part of it is my sons themselves.

When my oldest was 7 he went to the school library. He had heard about this new book series called Harry Potter and really really wanted to read it. He found book three and took it to the front to check it out.  She asked him curiously if he had read the other ones first.  He said no, having just heard about the series.

She wouldn't let him check out the book.

Now before anyone has a cow, she knew that he'd be confused by coming into the middle of the series, but he had waited so long to get a taste of these books.  Well, suffice it to say he came home terribly upset that the librarian wouldn't let him check out the book he wanted.  So we had a talk with our son and told him to go back to the librarian and insist that he should be allowed to read the book. That it wasn't for the librarian to say whether or not he could read a series out of order.  Keep in mind that my husband and I hadn't yet heard of the books, so we didn't see what all the fuss was about.Our 7 year old was the first one to enlighten us as to their existence.  :)  Go son!!! 

Well, he put on his brave face (as he recounted to us later) and insisted that the librarian let him borrow the book. And that his parents told him he could.  She smiled of course and told him she was only concerned about him getting confused, but of course he could read the book out of order if he wanted to. Uh..huh...  While I appreciate her relenting, I thought maybe she shouldn't have barred him in the first place.

Which takes me to my major point today.  How does one go about deciding what people should read and when. And what constitutes a book for boys?  Let me tell you about my karate chopping, soccer playing, marching banding, testosterone filled sons.  They've read Harry Potter. They've read Fablehaven. And Maximum Ride. The oldest is getting through the Wheel of Time. But they've also read Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, and Goose Girl, River of Secrets... with the oldest one reading every book in the house, including: Wings and Spells by Aprilynne Pike, The Gallagher Series by Ally Carter, The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer...

My point being that I guess you can't rule out boys with "girl-type" books. A good story is a good story, and even a boy can appreciate one told about a girl.  Especially seeing as how he lives with so many.  :)  Maybe that's the key. It's okay for our boys to like books with girl protagonists because it pays homage to his sisters...or something.  Sure. Okay.  Or maybe they just like good books as much as the girls and the stigma I hear about the "gender" of books doesn't quite hold.

Now, that's not to say that my son isn't more excited about my spy book than my contemporary YA, but both still have girl protagonists, so...
Keep all those great books coming!!!!  My sons need something new to read!

Happy Blogging about Books for Boys!!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A's are for School. What?

Yes. That's correct. Or at least A's are what I strive to get in school. (see, I know what I'm talking about) And wholly appropriate seeing as how both are what have kept me from blogging the last little while.

But now I'm back. And no, I'm not done with school. I just realized that I wasn't getting an A in blogging and decided to fix it.

I love the joy I get after hours of hard work pay off and I'm rewarded with the highest grade. It's so validating! And a relief. And yet, there are other things in my life that don't give me a grade.

Such as getting an "A" in motherhood! How does that work? Haven't I already earned that just in the nine months worth of "labor" it took to get them here?  Or perhaps it comes from all the late night talks, helping with homework and maybe a walk or two together in the park.

Maybe it's best that they don't pass out grades, because I'm pretty sure some days I would deserve an F.  For losing my cool and occasionally my car keys, or lecturing too long when I think that I'm helping. Yes, motherhood is one of the hardest things to be graded on, and it doesn't help that it's done on a curve. You know what I mean. How many children wish their mothers were like someone else's?  "Susie's mom bakes home made cookies, and Charlotte's mom buys her whatever she wants!"

Sorry. Sometimes I can be like Susie's mom and I'll leave it to the economy to thank Charlotte's, because personally I don't think she's doing her daughter any favors. But that being said, I SO love being a Mom. And I love the fact that my kids love me being a writer. And a student. And their chauffeur, nurse, banker, chef, tissue, heating pad, jungle gym, chair...and friend.  Yes, my children are my best friends, right along with my husband.

And that makes us an A+ family in my book.

A to Z Challenge

 Blogging from A to Z during the month of April.

Wait...Karen blogs? Uh...yeah, I know. It's been a busy few months for me.  But I promise it's all good and that someday I'll tell you allllllllllllll about it.  I promise.  But for about we start fresh. Like as in the beginning. You know...the letter A.  Here's the challenge from one of the fabulous hosts at Tossing it Out.

"The premise of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge is to post something on your blog every day in April except for Sundays.  In doing this you will have 26 blog posts--one for each letter of the alphabet.   Each day you will theme your post according to a letter of the alphabet.

You will only be limited by your own imagination in this challenge.  There is an unlimited universe of possibilities.  You can post essays, short pieces of fiction, poetry, recipes, travel sketches, or anything else you would like to write about.  You don't have to be a writer to do this.  You can post photos, including samples of your own art or craftwork.    Everyone who blogs can post from A to Z."

So you can click on the picture below or the side picture if you want to participate yourself. And no, this is no April Fool's joke.  Honest. :) 

Happy Blogging!!!!