Saturday, June 30, 2012

Randomness Right Now

What we are reading:

MOM (not revealing my age!) -
  • Knit One Pearl One by Gil McNeil (I have read the first two and had to grab this when I saw it in the "NEW" section at the library.)
  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (I saw this in Target and remember liking the cover, and that it had a shiny Newbery Award seal on the front!)
  • The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

SON #1 (age 10) - He has finished several series recently and is not into another right now.
  • The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch (he blew through all five of these in about 2 weeks!)
  • The Zombie Chasers series by John Kloepfer (will read #3 when it is available at our library)
  • The Talent Thief by Alex Williams (he says this is good but he is not devouring it... I grabbed it at the library because it had an eye-catching cover!)

DAUGHTER (age 8) -
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (I just finished reading this to her and we both enjoyed it.)
  • Junie B., First Grader: Cheater Pants (she has read several in this series recently to finish her eight books for the Barnes and Noble Summer reading challenge. Now if she would just finish her chores we could go to the mall and pick up her free book!)

SON #2 - a few favorites (he is age 1) -

HUSBAND #1 (LOL!) - He doesn't read.

Blog Education:

A few things I have learned recently, and yes, I have been focusing on learning a little more about Twitter!
1. How to shorten links to a blog post to put into your tweet.  You can go here to a site called Bitly and shorten your link so there is actually room to write more than just the link in your tweet. Yes, I'm sure most of you already know this, but I had to look it up!

2. Add a Follow Me button to your blog. If you would like to add a basic "Follow Me" button to your blog go here in Twitter. I selected the "follow" and then "user name" options. This will bring up a "Preview and Code" section and you will want to copy the code to put on your blog. In your Blogger account go to the layout page of your blog and select "Add a Gadget" and then "HTML/Java Script." Add and title and copy the code into the "Content" section. Click save and then drag your new gadget to where you want it on the sidebar.

On Writing:

Being a new writer there are a lot of writing terms I come across that I haven't heard before. I have just been writing off the cuff, which is OK for now, OK for a first draft, but I know there will be a lot to go back and fix.

1. Beats. I have read one book on self-editing with the brilliant idea that if I learned about all the things I would do wrong upfront then I could do it right the first time through. LOL! The big thing I took from that book was about using beats to enhance dialog. There is a good article here at Writing Fiction @ suite 101 which says "Physical descriptions, or beats, and active sentences can show a reader the intent behind a writer's dialogue."

So intead of simply writing:
     "What did you do?" Mrs. Dixon said.

You could write:
     "What did you do?" Mrs. Dixon frowned at Tyler and put her hands on her hips.

In the second example you get a better understanding that Tyler did something naughty and is probably about to get in trouble.


What also like about using beats is that instead of always using a standard attribution like "he said" or "she said" to tell the reader who is speaking, you can show it though action. This is especially useful when there are more than two people in the conversation.

So instead of:
     "What do you want to do tonight girls?" Sarah asked.
     "Oh, I don't know." Betty said.
     "Well, we could go to the new Spiderman movie." Megan said.

You could use beats like this:
     Sarah was lounging on the couch reading a new book. She paused and looked up at her roommates. "What do you want to do tonight girls?" she asked.
     "Oh, I don't know." Betty said.
     Megan had just finished flipping through the entertainment section of the paper. "Well, we could go see the new Spiderman movie."

I know these are not the most sophisticated examples, but it's a start in the right direction I think. Of course there is a lot more to beats, but these are the most useful stategies that fit what I am working on.

2. Pacing. Another word I keep hearing is pacing. I really haven't known what that is all about until today when I finally decided to look it up. I found a good article at Fiction Facter here, which describes pacing as "the rhythm of the novel, of the chapters and scenes and paragraphs and sentences. It's also the rate at which the reader reads, the speed at which novel events occur and unfold. It's using specific word choices and sentence structure - scene, chapter and novel structure - to tap the emotions of the reader so that the reader feels what the writer wants the reader to feel at any given time during the story."

I like the opening of the article:
For a moment, let's pretend that the words we write on the page are sound. If all the sounds are the same, then we have monotone. Monotone puts us to sleep, bores us to tears, turns us off  - and if it goes on for any length of time - ticks us off."

Yes! Now I get it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My So-Called Teenage Life Blog Hop

This bloghop is hosted by Amy at The Green Bathtub and Christa Desir.

Here are the rules.

Step One: Sign up on the linky below.
Step Two: Dust off those old sappy journals or high school notebooks filled with bad poetry.*
Step Three: Skim through them until you find something share-worthy.
Step Four: On June 21 POST IT on your blog.

Optional: We all love seeing old photos, so if you have one lying around of you as a teen, post that, too.

We'll all be hopping around peeking into each others private teenage lives on June 21. Can you imagine a better way to spend the first day of summer?

*Didn't write in a journal or compose poetry as a teenager? Have no fear! Counterfeit entries are welcome! Pretend you're a teenager and write whatever you feel. Just make sure you're using your teenage voice.

And if you're still a teenager, hey, you're going to basically rock this blog hop.
Sign up below!

I wasn't sure about this bloghop when I first read about it. Sure I wrote a lot of papers for school, maybe a poem here or there, but nothing I would say was very interesting. I didn't feel like making anything up, so before adding my name to the list I wanted to find something I could use. I have a trunk where I keep a bunch of old school-related papers (dating back to 1st grade!) so I asked my husband to unearth it and started to dig. It took a good chunk of time to wade through the boring term papers, but I found a gem.

This particular assignment was titled Story Quiz, and I think it was from my senior year in high school. The idea, I'm guessing, was to take our 20 vocabulary words and use them in a story. My teacher's words at the top were as follows. "Whew! This is a mini-series! You earned the A- for using your words appropriately, but it is necessary to write so long a piece to utilize 20 words?"

I typed my hand-written story into Word today and it came in at 1,503 words!

I won't put the entire story in this blog post, but here is a summary and then I will add a few excerpts that had me laughing out loud. I hope you find them amusing as well. I have kept all the awful punctuation and grammar intact. And remember, I had to use specific vocabulary words which will be highlighted in red.

Summary: Kim and Karlee are best friends. Kim comes over to Karlee's house where Tony (Karlee's boyfriend) is bringing Ferris (his cousin, a blind date for Kim) and they are all going to a U2 concert. Can you say 1980's! Well, this would have been 1990 or 1991, but still.

A couple interesting things to note: My husband's name is Tony. In this story Tony drives a 1966 mustang and my husband owns a 1967 camaro. Foreshadowing of my life to come?


Excerpt #1 - Kim has just arrived in Karlee's room.

“You know, your room is a mess.”
“I know, I know. Don’t think my mom doesn’t tell me that every day.” They looked at each other and started giggling, but the unbridled excitement got the best of them and they started cracking up.
Karlee stood up and twirled around. “How do I look, dahling?” Kim had to admit she did look good.
“Simply perfect, dahling. Your clothes are cool, each and every hair on your head is in place and your make-up has been applied with the most circumspect and delicate touch as usual.”
“Well… I really want to look good for Tony. You know how much I like him.”
“What about Ferris?”
“What about him?”
“Aren’t you just dying waiting to see him? Tony said he was pretty easy on the eyes.”
“Yeah, I know. I have to confess I am curious, but I didn’t want to seem too anxious. You can tell by my clothes. It doesn’t look bad, but it’s only an old pair of jeans and a rugby I salvaged from a bag of my brother’s old clothes. And I can relinquish the idea of getting new clothes this fall.”
“Oh, I know. Having an older sister and brother who grow out of clothes is the pits.”
“How would you know? You are the oldest.”
“OK, OK, but you do look good.”
They went downstairs to wait and nearly collided with Karlee’s mom.
“Oh, hello girls. All set?”
“Yes, mom.”
“Yes, Mrs. Mitchell.”
It was coming, they knew it. The speech. Each girl tried to escape before it hit them, but…
“Wait one second my two favorite teenagers.” She started to admonish them. “Now, no drugs, alcohol and please be careful and stick together. I don’t want you coming home telling me that you lost more than your hearing. (Yeah, I have no idea where this line came from.) And remember you are to be home by one. Kim, you’ll be sleeping over tonight. Am I correct?”


Excerpt #2 - The boys have just pulled up in the car. My teacher wrote "Isn't this a rather ominous vision?" Yes, it is... darn vocabulary words!

Just then they heard a car and whirled around to the window. A slick 1966 mustang pulled up and two figures stepped out on the shadows of the car like brigands stepping out of the woods to attack their next victims.
Karlee sighed. “Look how handsome Tony is.”
Kim ran her eyes over her own date, Ferris. He was tall, and well built, maybe a little cumbersome looking. He had soft dirty blonde hair and deep blue eyes.
“Not too bad for a blind date, hunh?”
“What?” Karlee was still staring at Tony.
“Ferris, remember him, my date.”
“Oh, yeah he is pretty good looking, just like Tony said.”
The doorbell rang and Karlee immediately wished it hadn’t. It sounded like a sudden spasmodic firing or guns. Her family really needed to get it fixed, along with everything else in the house. But it got them to the door just the same.
The two girls hurried to the door and attempted to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. What a dilemma.
“Great, we’re standing here trying to open a locked door,” announced Kim.


There are some other funny lines like the news on the radio talking about the Navy commandeering (yes, another vocabulary work) the Love Boat. And then finally, 1,500 words later they have arrived at the concert hall. I'm sure my teacher was very relieved to have it all come to an end!

And as an extra special bonus, I have included a self-portrait from one of my art classes, freshman year of college. Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Randomness Right Now

Blog Education

A few things I have learned recently. 

1. In Blogger, if you would like to follow a non-Blogger blog, you can. Now this may not be news to some people, but I was getting frustrated with blogs that did not have a "follow-me" button or running across blogs on different platforms that I wanted to follow. When you are on the Blogger home screen, all you have to do is click on the "ADD" button above the "All blogs" link, paste the url from the blog you want to follow, click on "+ Add" next to where you have pasted the url and click the "Follow" button at the bottom. Easy Peasy!

2. Not everyone has an e-mail connected to their blog account.  So when I try to reply to a comment via e-mail sometimes it goes to a address. I have sent many e-mails to this address before I realized I should check first. So if you would like to add an e-mail to your account here is what you need to do.
  1. Go to Dashboard
  2. Go to Edit Profile
  3. Look in Privacy section
  4. Check the box that says "show my email address"
  5. Go to Identity section, and enter an email address
  6. Click Save Profile
I got this information from Julie Musil's blog. If you would like to see that info first hand, see her post here.

Blog Awards

A few blog awards have come my way in the past month.

1. The Liebster Blog Award was given to me by Andrea Teagan at The Enchanted Writer. Head on over to her blog to see her current series on writing a Book in a Month! The German translation of liebster is favorite or dearest, so thanks so much Andrea!

The 'rules' of the award are the following:
  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less.
  5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
And here are the blogs I feel deserve this award!
  1. Barbara Ann Watson - Barbara has great MMGM (Marvelous Middle Grade Monday) posts and has just launched a Professional Editing Service business. And the fact that we share the same middle name has nothing to do with her being #1 on my list! :-)
  2. Middle Grade Mafioso - Another frequent MMGM poster, Michael just passed 100 followers and had a week-long celebration on his blog. The best thing about Michael's blog is his "godfather-themed" humor. Fun stuff!
  3. The Art of Infiltration - Kimberly has great posts on "The Contest Circuit" and has a contest underway herself with a giveaway for SIGNED copies of NYT best selling author Veronica Roth's INSURGENT and Elizabeth Norris's UNRAVELING.
  4. S.P. Bowers - Another blog that just passed 100 followers - YAY! And anyone who celebrates with ice cream and Oreos is okay by me!
  5. Scribbles From Jenn - Jenn is participating in JuNoWriMo so head on over an offer your encouragement as she pushes through the final two weeks! Jenn also writes MG... do you see a pattern here? I love MG! :-)

2. Laura at My Baffling Brain gave me the One Lovely Blogger Award, about a month ago! Thank you Laura! The award calls for answering some questions. I am going to opt out of passing the award on to more bloggers today as I have already listed some of my favorite blogs above.

  1. What is your favorite song? I enjoy most songs by Nickleback, and you just can't beat James Taylor. Yes, my taste is all over the place!
  2. What is your favorite dessert? Ice cream with home made chocolate sauce is a frequent dessert in our house, but I love a creamy piece of cheesecake!
  3. When you are upset, what do you do? I cry. Luckily I don't get upset too often.
  4. What is your favorite pet? Our only pet is a cat, who stays hidden all day and then comes out at night (after the kids are in bed) and wants attention. She doesn't always get it. Last night I heard her cough up a hairball but still haven't found it, so she is not on my favorite list right now!
  5. What do you prefer to wear: black or white? I would have to say black.
  6. What is your biggest fear? That something will prevent me from taking care of my kids properly.
  7. What is your attitude mostly? I am a pretty low-key person. My attitude is usually a good one, but it would probably be hard to tell.
  8. What is perfection to you? My definition of perfection has changed since having kids. I am a perfectionist for sure, but I have had to loosen my expectations a bit with chores and projects that I do with the kids. The goal/end result has to be within their age-appropriate abilities.
  9. What is your guilty pleasure? Eating a couple bites of ice cream when the kids aren't looking!

Have a great day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Interview with Operation Awesome!

For those of you who read my interview with Krista Van Dolzer, you may notice a pattern starting here. I am fascinated with on-line writing contests! And I can't even take part in them because I don't have a completed (and polished) manuscript. But it is tons of fun watching them unfold and then reading all the entries. Krista Van Dolzer has a great post on Why You Should Enter Blog Contests with a lot of great points that wouldn't even have crossed my mind.

Most of the questions I asked here were the same as the last interview and I think it is iteresting to see the the answers from another set of perspectives. Thank you to Katrinz Lantz, Lindsay Scott (who writes as Isabella Morgan,) and Michelle McLean from Operation Awesome who helped me out with this fun interview.

Operation Awesome hosts The Mystery Agent contests which run almost every month on the first of the month. They publish a "Heads Up" post the day before so there is no confusion on the specifics and all entries are done within the comments section once the contest post goes live. Read on to find out all about their "operation!"

1. When did you start blogging and what was your initial purpose/reason?

Michelle: I came in late to the party so I'll let you guys answer this one :) though I remember when I joined you guys seemed very geared toward paying it forward - sharing your journeys while trying to help other writers through theirs. Paying it forward has always been a big theme of the OA I think.

Katrina: We started the blog in September 2011. It was Kristal's idea, and I thought it'd be good for building our online presence, which we're always hearing about from agents. We also wanted to share with other writers, talk about writing and new books we love. That's been one of the most fun things for me. That and the MA contests, of course.

Lindsay: The reason we started blogging as a group was to help other writers and give back to the writing community.

2. Why did you decide to start having writing contests? 

Katrina: I'd really enjoyed similar contests at other blogs, especially the Secret Agent contests at Miss Snark's First Victim. After having some very friendly interactions with a couple awesome agents, I realized that they really are there to help writers get published, not just to mock ridiculous queries. :) Our M.A. contests give us and our readers an opportunity to get to know these nice agents, and gives the agents an opportunity to specify exactly what they're looking for so (we hope) their inboxes get flooded with the right stuff rather than the wrong stuff.

Michelle:  We’ve always loved these types of contests on other blogs (like Miss Snark’s First Victim) and since our main mission is to help writers along their journey, it seemed natural for us to help them try to connect with agents. They also give us a chance to get to know agents better.

3. Was your blog already popular, and how did you promote the contests?

Michelle: We’ve slowly built our readership over the last year or so. We don’t require contest participants to be followers, but I think the contests have helped spread the word about us. To promote, we just do the usual – tweet, blog, Facebook, etc.

Katrina: We had no followers in August before our September launch date, so it's been fun to celebrate each milestone as a group blog as we've been able to reach more writers with our contests and readers with our book love. Twitter was a very effective promotional tool for the contests, like Michelle already said. It's so easy to connect with other writers that way. It helped having six of us at once tweeting about it. We also posted about the contests at popular writing forums to spread the word even faster.

4. How do you approach/connect with the agents you wish to include in the contests?

Michelle: We’ll often approach newer agents, because they are the ones who are actively building their lists. And we’ve asked agents we have personal experience with (one month we had my former agent, for example). We just send them an email and ask if they’d like to participate :) We’ve had a great response!

Lindsay: We usually send an email to the agent to ask if the contest is something they'd be interested in taking part. 

5. Have you ever run into any problems or disgruntled contestants, and how do you handle this?

Lindsay: Not as yet. 

Michelle:  Nothing too terribly bad yet. One or two that might disagree with our definition of a one-line pitch, or people being upset about when the post goes live (we’ve tried to alleviate this by posting in advance when it will go up, but we’ve had a couple glitches, and really, you can’t make everyone happy). For the most part we haven’t had any problems.

Katrina: We're pretty accommodating when people have trouble with blogger. No system is fool proof. :)

6. Are there any liability issues when running contests?
Michelle:  Hopefully not :) Since we aren’t offering any products or guaranteed prizes and since we don’t require anything for people to enter (such as following our blog or donations, etc), there aren’t any liability issues that we are aware of. We do try to state the rules very clearly, keep things as simple as possible, and make sure everyone knows up front what is expected and what potential prizes are.

7. How fast do the contests fill up?

Lindsay: It can be anything from minutes to hours. 

Michelle:  The first 40 or so entries usually happen very quickly. The last contest we had, the first 40 went in 10 minutes. Because the comment number doesn’t always match up with how many qualifying entries we have, the last few entries tend to take a bit longer because people will see 52 comments and assume we are full. But, with our last contest we had 50 entries within about 25 minutes.

Katrina: Even the very first contest was filled within the day. Writers love contests! And we love hosting them. :)

8. The way your Mystery Agent contests are set up, contestants enter via the comments section of the blog post. This doesn't allow for any comments from other contestants/readers. Did you set it up this way for a reason?

Michelle: Yes. We aren’t running the contest so other readers can critique the pitches. The pitches are only listed as an entry for the mystery agent. It’s scary enough posting your pitch for an agent to see, let alone posting it and having a ton of people critiquing it. We just wanted to run these contests to give people an opportunity to hook up with an agent, not for critiques. Having people put them in the comments is the fastest, easiest way for people to enter.

Lindsay: I think that it just helps to keep things central to the blog. It also means that all the OA ladies can see how the contest is filling up at the same time (rather than email/spreadsheets which one person would have to keep track of). 

Katrina: It really does keep it simple, and some of our Mystery Agents like to follow along with the contest by watching the blog comments fill up. 

9. With a group blog I'm sure the workload is able to be spread out.  Does this make running the contests (almost once-a-month) more manageable?  Does each person have certain responsibilities or do you rotate who runs the contest each month?

Lindsay: We all pitch in to help. Usually there's one or two of us able to keep an eye on the blog to count the entries/check they are all following the rules. We don't rotate who runs the contest each month (since one of us is usually online with the various time zones we live in), but we do keep as organized as possible. We have a list of which OA member has contacted an agent/who it is/if the agent has agreed/the month the agent is taking part etc.

Michelle:  Whoever contacts the agent is in charge of getting the post up and handling communication with the agent regarding the entries, the reveal interview, etc. We sort of take turns doing that although it’s not really scheduled. Whoever is available that day will help keep an eye on things so we can get the contest closed down as soon as we hit our quota and to help check entries to make sure they are following the rules.

10. Contests seem like such a fun way to find an agent. How many success stories can you attribute to your blog?

Katrina: Our Mystery Agents tab across the top of the blog includes success stories for those who'd like to find out which pitches really nailed it. Sometimes success meant finding an agent or selling a book, but most of the time these contests have helped winners get more requests and personal feedback.

11. I’m sure the success stories are rewarding for you, as well as for the writer and agent who found each other, but what other part of hosting contests do you find most rewarding?

Lindsay: I love the fact that, in a small way, we are helping connect other writers with agents. Contests help gain experience. Pitching is something you learn to do. Every contest you enter, winner or not, helps hone that part of the craft. And knowing we've played a tiny part in the writing journey is wonderful. 

Michelle:  We love reading all the pitches. There are some really good ones and a lot of stories we’d really love to read! Really, helping our readers with posts on pitching and reading all the pitches helps us with our own pitches.

Katrina: Ditto what Lindsay and Michelle said. Pitching takes practice, but it really helps to see successful examples. Sometimes it surprises me which pitches an agent will pick over others, but I always learn something when I'm paying close attention. I recommend our readers pay attention to these things, too. It can really help you to get a grasp for what a particular agent craves. That's why we post the contest link and reveal post on the Mystery Agents tab so you can compare the two. And, like I said earlier, I really love getting to know the agents. They're all book lovers like us! And all our M.A.'s are super nice.

12. What tips do you have for someone who would like to host contests on his/her blog? 

Lindsay: Be as organized as you can. 

Don't be afraid of approaching agents to take part. 

Michelle: Make sure you have the rules very clearly spelled out. Give people a heads up at least a week in advance so they know it’s coming and they can prepare their entry (it takes time to get those entries polished!). Above all, keep it as simple as you can. Running contests can get complicated, so the easier you can make it on yourself and your followers, the better.

Katrina: I second Lindsay's comment about not being afraid to contact an agent. I've only had one bad experience contacting an agent for the contest, and that person was just a Grouchy McGrouchikins. For the most part, agents are very receptive to interviews and contests, as long as you keep it organized and make it as easy as possible for them (because choosing from all those awesome pitches can be tricky!). Make sure all they have to do is pick the winner and you handle the rest.

Thanks for having us on your blog!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Never Surrender Blogfest

This blogfest is being hosted by Elana Johnson in celebration of the release of her YA novel Surrender. I look forward to hopping around and reading as many as time permits!

Here are the specifics!
All you have to do is blog about a time you didn't surrender. Trained for a marathon? Queried agents? Had to study for an entrance exam? I'm looking for inspirational stories that you have experienced. Hard things you've accomplished because you didn't give up. I want to be inspired by you!

Anyone who blogs this week for the theme can enter to win one of three $15 B&N gift cards. Everyone who blogs this week will receive a SURRENDER swag package.

Don’t blog? Put the cover of Surrender up on your FB wall, or pin it on Pinterest, or change your twitter avatar to the cover. Use the words “Never Surrender” somewhere to go with the picture, and link back to this post.

Sign up in this form to make sure you get the swag package. Elana will visit each blog to read your inspirational "never surrender" moments. Sign your blog up to participate in the Never Surrender blogfest linklist below.


And here is my story.

It is true that you must walk before you can run. In October 2006 I completed the Nike Women's Marathon. But I didn't wake up the morning of and decide to go run a big race. I put a plan in place, gathered a support group, and trained hard for many, many months. 

1. Making the commitment. I ran my marathon with an awesome organization called Team in Training, which is part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I went to a meeting and decided to sign up for the half-marathon . . . the full 26.2 miles seemed way too hard at the time. But I am a very competitive person and I couldn't bear the thought of other people running an entire marathon while I "gave up" at the half-way point (I totally don't consider running a half-marathon giving up as 13.1 miles is quite an accomplishment as well. This is just how I felt at the time.) So I committed to run all 26.2 of those miles. I also committed to raising money to help support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a requirement when participating in an event through Team in Training.

2. Putting a plan in place. This was fairly easy because I was training with an organization. They gave us a sample schedule and organized group runs every Saturday morning. I stuck to the schedule like glue, running or cross-training 6-7 days-a-week for five months.

3. Gathering a support system. I had the support of Team in Training and the Saturday morning runs to keep me accountable. But without the support of my husband and his parents I could never have done this. I woke up at 5am and completed the short 5-mile, mid-week runs on my own. But most Saturdays my husband joined me for the long runs. That meant the kids were dropped off at my in-laws on Friday night so we could get up early and go. Even though my husband complained about the slow-pace, I loved having him there with me! We didn't talk much on the runs but it was great together time.

Team in Training gives you the tools to set up a fund raising web site and through that I was able to raise most of the money I needed to contribute to the event, a portion of which went towards airfare and hotel accommodations. It was exciting to tell people about my plan to run the marathon and heart-warming to see the donations start coming in. It was very motivating to know my friends and family were behind me as well, supporting me with their cheerleading and donations.

4. Train hard and don't give up! That first group run was tough! Five miles of huffing and puffing, but I made it. Getting up at 5am was tough! But it felt good to get my workout done before breakfast. The ice baths (yes this means dumping a bunch of ice in an already cold tub of water and then getting in for 10 minutes) after the long runs were REALLY tough! But I was rarely sore (just very tired) and I can officially add the title of Crazy Woman to my name. Cross-training was tough! I chose to do spinning classes, which are great for endurance and leg strength, but a type of exercise I have always found hard. But I pushed through these classes because I knew I would come out a better runner for it. Making a 5-month commitment was tough! I think I missed only one workout over the entire 5-month period due to a head cold. But I stuck with it because I am the type of person who, if I start missing a workout here or there, will make *very good* excuses why it is OK to miss more.

I didn't give up! And I can say without a doubt, after my wedding and giving birth to three kids, running this marathon has been the most exciting and memorable experience in my life so far. Not only that, I am proud of myself for sticking with it and accomplishing my goal.

During one of the keynotes' speech at a recent writing conference it dawned on me that there are lots of similarities between my marathon experience and the writing process. I don't think it takes a genius to see the parallels. Hopefully I can be inspired by my own story and buckle down and finish my 1st draft. My main problem with writing is sticking to the "training schedule." I sit down to write and there are so many distractions on my computer (like fun blogfests - ha!) I need to make a time for writing and do nothing else. Period.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Like, Totally! My So-called Teenage Life Bloghop

I wasn't too sure about this one, but I made my husband unearth the trunk that holds all my school work (from elementary through college!) and found a few gems. I'll even throw in an added bonus of a lovely self-portrait I made during my first year of college!

This bloghop is hosted by Amy at The Green Bathtub and Christa Desir.

Here are the rules.

Step One: Sign up on the linky below.

Step Two: Dust off those old sappy journals or high school notebooks filled with bad poetry.*

Step Three: Skim through them until you find something share-worthy.

Step Four: On June 21 POST IT on your blog.

Optional: We all love seeing old photos, so if you have one lying around of you as a teen, post that, too.

We'll all be hopping around peeking into each others private teenage lives on June 21. Can you imagine a better way to spend the first day of summer?

*Didn't write in a journal or compose poetry as a teenager? Have no fear! Counterfeit entries are welcome! Pretend you're a teenager and write whatever you feel. Just make sure you're using your teenage voice.

And if you're still a teenager, hey, you're going to basically rock this blog hop.

Sign up below!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Crazy Cozy Blogfest

I didn't add my name to the linky because I totally read the instructions wrong. The entry was supposed to be a pitch for a cozy mystery and it was supposed to be as crazy an idea as you could come up with. I thought it was supposed to be in flash format and I totally missed the crazy (yes I know it was in the title) part. And finally the word count. Since I didn't follow any of the other rules I didn't go back and cut mine down to the 150-250 they asked for (which I can now see works for a short pitch) so my "short" blurb came in at 375 words. 

See below for the info on Quilt or Innocence, the first book in a new cozy mystery series by Elizabeth Craig. I am also making this post because Elizabeth's Mystery Writing is Murder blog looks like a great resource for writers. She has gone both the traditional and self-publishing routes and had success in each. Hart Johnson (pen name Alyse Carlson) was also in on this blogfest, and her first book The Azalea Assuslt released yesterday. She blogs at Confessions of a Watery Tart.

I must confess that I had never heard the term cozy mystery before, and after reading the definition realized I have only ever read one book that falls into this category. They sound like fun books though so I will put one on my list to read in the near future. As I have told my son recently we all need a little variety in our reading choices!


Here is what I came up with. I know this doesn't fall into any category of childrens' writing, but I thought it was an interesting challenge and any writing is good practice!

Sally stuck a finger under the apron of the crab and yanked it off. She flipped it over and removed the top shell with the ease of someone who had done it before. Then she moved onto the gills and stomach, placed the cleaned crab on a plate and threw a metal cracker on the side.
“Order up Tom!” Sally yelled out to the front.
Situated in a small town on the Chesapeake River, the restaurant was Sally’s baby. She had opened just one year ago, after finishing her Master’s degree at the University of Maryland. She was young and educated but said “to heck with it” and moved home to Easton. Her best friend had followed her home and together they birthed The Cracked Claw.
The tight-knit community had welcomed them with open arms, and soon a group of regulars had also become their good friends. On Thursday nights after closing, they stayed late and played cards, gossiped and drank a few beers.
“I said, order up Tom!”
Sally didn’t like to keep her customers waiting and this particular evening was especially busy. Not a great night for one of her cooks to go AWOL, but Sally always filled in where she was needed and made sure things were running smoothly.
After wiping her hands and straightening her just-snug-enough shirt, Sally started towards the door. Preparing the crabs was hot, dirty work and if she had to go out front she wanted to look halfway presentable.
Just then the door burst open and Tom came in with a worried look on his face. She and Tom had been friends since their first year of college and Sally knew this was an expression she should take seriously.
“Tom, what’s wrong?” Sally asked.
“Well Miss,” a low voice drawled from behind Tom. “We could start with the dead body someone found floating in the water by your dock.”
Sally’s mouth dropped open. Nothing came out so she closed it back up.
Detective Snow introduced himself and continued. “Each finger was snapped in half and a crab cracker with your prints all over it was shoved down his . . .”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Tom said. “I don’t think we need to hear all the gory details.”

Quilt or InnocenceBeatrice has a lot of gossip to catch up on—especially with the Patchwork Cottage quilt shop about to close. It seems that Judith, the landlord everyone loves to hate, wants to raise the rent, despite being a quilter herself… But when Judith is found dead, the harmless gossip becomes an intricate patchwork of mischievous motives. And it’s up to Beatrice’s expert eye to decipher the pattern and catch the killer, before her life gets sewn up for good.

Elizabeth Spann Craig: Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer's Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.

As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Girl Scout leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.

Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound
Mystery Writing is Murder


The Azalea AssaultCam Harris loves her job as public relations manager for the Roanoke Garden Society. It allows her to combine her three loves, spinning the press, showing off her favorite town, and promoting her favorite activity. She's just achieved a huge coup by enlisting Garden Delights, the country's premiere gardening magazine, to feature the exquisite garden of RGS founder, Neil Patrick. She's even managed to enlist world-famous photographer Jean-Jacques Georges. Unfortunately, Jean-Jacques is a first-rate cad—insulting the RGS members and gardening, goosing every woman in the room, and drinking like a lush. It is hardly a surprise when he turns up dead. But when Cam's brother-in-law is accused and her sister begs her to solve the crime, that is when things really get prickly.

Alyse Carlson: Alyse Carlson is the pen name for Hart Johnson who writes books from her bathtub. By day she is an academic researcher at a large midwestern university. She lives with her husband, two teenage children and two fur balls. The dust bunnies don't count. This will be her first published book.

Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound
Confessions of a Watery Tart

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2013 Sasquatch Award Nominees Announced

I first heard about the Sasquatch Award this past school year when my son had the opportunity to earn a special pizza party if he read, and passed an AR test for, each book nominated for the award. These are all middle grade books targeted for grades three through six. There were a couple titles in the mix that he had no interest in reading so he didn't complete the challenge. Maybe he would have tried harder if the prize had been more enticing? Maybe this year I will put up my own prize if he finishes. Maybe this year I will read them right along with him! This is such a great way to introduce kids to a wider variety of books, and who knows, they might actually love a few of them.


Okay. I asked my son what would motivate him to read all the Sasquatch award nominees and he said $100. I will have to run this one by my husband.


The Sasquatch Award comes from a group of books selected by the Sasquatch committee of the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA). Children vote for the winner, and are required to read or have read to them at least two titles in order to vote.

Here is an excerpt by Joanne L. Hjort, from the WLMA website, that explains the process for coming up with the nominees:

"This committee meets in the early spring, in Ellensburg. We each bring our pile of book nominations with us. We solicit nominations from teachers, students, a few book shop owners and other librarians. We constantly try to focus on titles that children like and want to read while continually discussing the merits of individual titles in a series such as Redwall, American Girl, etc.

The actual process is a round robin in which each member presents their best title. We do this about three times around or until everyone feels that have presented the titles that have been most favored in their region. At this point we start discussing various titles, balance of male and female focus, ethnic diversity, and a variety of reading levels ranging from the earliest chapter book reader on up. One year we decided to include one picture book for older students (Passage to Freedom) as well as an autobiographical title (Basher Five-Two). I guess we then trust our instincts and negotiate the final list."

Here are the 2013 Sasquatch Award Nominees (in A-Z order by author). All were published in 2009 and 2010.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
The PS Brothers by Maribeth Boelts
Crunch by Leslie Conner
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
The Popularity Papers (#1) by Amy Ignatow
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen
The Books of Elsewhere v.1: The Shadows by Jacqueline West

Does your state have a similar award program for middle grade books? 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kim Harrington Cover Reveal: THE DEAD AND BURIED

Isn't this a cool cover design? I love the hauting image and I'm a sucker for cool font arrangement. I like how the title is so prominent and still looks great within the overall design. And the book sounds thrilling as well (read more below)... I will definitely be looking for it next year. Check out Kim's full post over (with a giveaway!) on her blog.

Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school -- until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?


Kim is also the author of the new middle grade series Sleuth or Dare (from Scholastic, May 2012, June 2102 and July 2012). In her words, "These are middle grade books for ages 8-12. They have mystery, suspense, humor, and friendship drama." The second book in the series Sleuth or Dare #2: Sleepover Stakeout, releases today!

After reading about Kim in an interview over on the Literary Rambles blog, I found her book Sleuth or Dare: Partners in Crime at the book fair for my kids' school.  I thought to myself "Cool, I *know* this author!" Since I am in the process of writing a MG Chapter Book series I grabbed this for my own personal reading - sorry 8-year-old daughter, you will have to wait until I am done with it!  I e-mailed Kim with a few new writer questions last week and wouldn't you know, she had responded twice within one day!  She is so nice (and quick on her computer) to have answered my quirky questions and she definitely has a new follower of her work. Thanks Kim!

Check out this fun series for yourself and your kids. You won't be dissappointed!