Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Year

Wow!  I can't believe how quickly the month of December has gone by.  Seems like yesterday I was stressing about NaNoWriMo and anticipating the return of our daughter from her barracks in Virginia to our fluffy warm nest in New Jersey.

Now that almost everyone has shed their shell-shocked, what-the-hell-just-happened Holiday look, we can move onto the next self guilt-induced occasion.

Declaring one's New Year Resolution is the only time we can make outrageous promises to ourselves and proclaim them to others without being held accountable.  (Almost like a politician's campaign promises.)

I've learned a long time ago I'm not the only person who isn't completely happy with themselves but if there is ever a time to make any changes, now just doesn't seem the right time to do it.  Will anyone, including myself, take me seriously?

Although Spring is the season better known as a time for renewal, January 1st seems to be when everyone adopts a "New Year-New You" mentality, where the slate of the past is wiped clean and everything starts anew.

My past resolutions have been to rid my house of so much clutter, lose weight, eat less, quit smoking, etc.  Some of those resolutions have lasted little more than the month of January while most of them were forgotten immediately after yelling, "Happy New Year!"

Sometimes we just can't eliminate those parts of ourselves and our lives that cause such embarrassment and anxiety.  If we learn to live with them instead of hiding them or banishing them from our lives, we as well as everyone in our lives will accept those things and feel more comfortable about them, allowing us to enjoy our lives.

This year, I've decided to try something totally different.  Instead of concentrating on things I need to eliminate, I'm going to concentrate on working with what I have.

--Instead of losing weight, perhaps I can  redistribute my excess weight.  Working out may help to lose pounds and if not, the pounds may turn from mush to muscle.

--Instead of giving up the foods I love like pasta, bread, salty snacks, and sweet desserts, I'll be sure to add more servings of vegetables and fruits.  My food intake will be slightly healthier without depriving myself of my favorite foods, thereby avoiding binge eating.

--Instead of dwelling on the clutter in my house and wondering how to get rid of it all and be more organized, Whether writing, sleeping, working, or having coffee and just talking to my daughter and husband, I'll live in the moment and make the most of my time by truly enjoying the person by my side, whatever we are doing. 

My New Year Resolution is to accept myself for who I am and be more aware to savor every moment of my life.

Here's wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and aware New Year.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"The Rag and Bone Shop" by Robert Cormier (Book Thoughts)

"I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart."--Yeats

It's the first day of summer in Monument, Mass.  12 year old Jason Dorrant is an introverted student at Monument Middle School.

When a 7 year old girl is found murdered, the town is anxious to find her killer.

The town calls Trent, an investigator from Vermont who always gets a confession, to interview their only suspect, Jason Dorrant.

This thriller is 154 pages of edge-of-your-seat reading.  You'll be wondering, right along with Trent the investigator, whether or not Jason is innocent or guilty.

Mr. Cormier brings you inside the minds of both main characters and the changes you see will shock you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Cards

Today is December 3rd.  I went out to my mailbox to pick up my mail and realized that I haven't received one Christmas card yet!  In previous years, I started receiving those festive glittery cards of cheer the day after Thanksgiving.  Here it is, already a week later, and I still haven't received any.

Granted, I haven't sent out any either.  I keep staring at the three boxes of cards sitting on my dining room table and I wonder if I missed an e-mail about some kind of nationwide ban on Christmas cards.  Now I don't know if I should send mine out or wait until the ban is lifted or at least until I get my first card.  Hmmm...I don't want my cards to be the first circulated cards of the season.

What about you?  Are you sending Holiday cards?

Monday, November 29, 2010


Ok, I give up.  Officially.  I know, I know, there are still 28 hours left, but there is no way I'm going to prolong my agony any longer.

I'm talking about National Novel Writing Month of course.  The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.  When you break it down, it's only 1667 words per day.  Yes, I said only.  Technically it's about 7 pages of 12pt font, double spaced.

"That's easy," you say.  I'll admit, even I said it.

I participated last year and afterwards, I swore I wouldn't do it again.  Call me a glutton for punishment.  I must have forgotten the agony I lived with because yes, I signed in again this year and figured if nothing else, I would at least get a head start on my newest novel idea.  I swore I wouldn't allow myself to sweat the word count.

I don't know what it is about NaNoWriMo.  There is nothing competitive about the activity.  (Aside from the friendly rival between areas and the screen that shows how many words your writing buddies have written...)  But for some reason, I feel the need to keep up.  Unfortunately, since day 2 I found myself behind by anywhere from 2-4,000 words.  Everyday the distance got larger until finally, with only one more day to go, I am behind by 17,000 words.

I'm out of steam.  I have over 500 e-mails to read, I've got Christmas shopping to do, rooms to clean, laundry to wash, dry, and fold and some friends and family to reconnect with after 30 days. 

There's one good thing to the whole NaNoWriMo 2010 experience.  I've learned that sometimes you just gotta know when to say, "When."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Smile" by Donna Jo Napoli (Book Thoughts)

First of all, I need to thank my good friend Courtney Rene, for recommending I read this author's books.

The "Mona Lisa" is one of DaVinci's most famous painting.  It's also a mystery.  Who is the young girl?  Why is she smiling?

"The Smile" is the tale of 15 year old Elisabetta.  Elisabetta will soon be betrothed to one of Florence, Italy's nobles.  She hopes her future husband will be young and romantic instead of an old widower a fate many of the young girls her age have accepted.

The author tells of Monna Elisabetta's life in Renaissance Italy.  Her everyday life, dreams of romance, and heartbreaking losses are intertwined with Leonardo DaVinci (who promises to paint her someday), the Medici Family (whose reign of importance is on the verge of collapse) and beautiful, artistic 15th century Florence (which is going to change drastically).

Like Ms. Napoli, I was never fond of history while I was a student, but am fascinated by other cultures and their stories.  Donna Jo Napoli merges culture and fascinating facts in her fictional stories.  She entertains us while piquing our curiosity to learn more.

I'm looking forward to devouring another of her books.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reading Fees?

Apparently we write more than we read.  Indie publishing is being crushed by submissions, but we don't pay for their products.

I recently did some online market research for a few adult fiction pieces I wrote.  I noticed a trend that I never saw before.  More and more publications require a fee for reading submissions.  Some charge as little as $2 and others charge as much as $20!

I have only been writing for about two years and have only been actively submitting to adult publications for the past year.  I've personally only heard of paying reading fees for contests.  Understandably, the fees pay for judges and prize money. 

But, bear in mind that some of the publications charging reading fees for submissions do not offer monetary payment for publication.  Your reward for a perfectly polished piece is the inclusion in their magazine.  Some of the literary reviews are well-known and quite hard to get into, but without payment, how will writers fund themselves?

On the other hand, the argument is that their editors are overwhelmed with submissions and by charging a reading fee, the quality of submitted material will be at its best.  True, the odds of a single piece in a slush pile of 200 submissions are better than in a pile of 2000 submissions, but it won't stop lousy writers with hefty bank accounts from submitting. 

I suppose having to fork over $2-$3 a pop will force me to be certain a piece is the best it can be, but I try to do that anyway.

What are your thoughts on reading fees?  Would you submit if a magazine charged one?  What will you do if every magazine began charging reading fees?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Transitions for Mr. Bransford

When I completed the rough draft for my YA fantasy novel, I immediately went to work researching possible agents.  At the top of my list was a young man named Nathan Bransford, a literary agent with Curtis Brown, LTD since 2002.

Mr. Bransford's blog is a writer's wonderland, filled with advice galore.  His blog contains practically everything a writer needs to know, from formatting a manuscript all the way to how the publishing process works.  His blog actually contains a Writing Advice Database that's priceless!

Mr. Bransford has such an easy-going manner and is in no way intimidating.  His posts are humorous and written in a way we can all understand.  He encourages writers to share their thoughts and he actually answers most questions posted by writers. 

I subscribe to Nathan Bransford's blog and get e-mail feeds so I don't miss any.  His blog has over 4600 Google followers and over 2500 Facebook fans.  Today, his post informed his followers that he was leaving the world of publishing and this would be his last day as a literary agent.  Mr. Bransford has been given an amazing opportunity to work at the tech news/review site CNET, where he will be helping to coordinate social media strategy. 

Nathan Bransford's blog and forums will live on even though his posts will change a bit.  If you've never visited his blog, do yourself a favor and check it out.  There is something to be learned for everyone.

I'm extremely pleased for Mr. Bransford, he is so excited about this new challenge and opportunity in his life, and he seems like such a helpful and deserving person.  But I can't help feel a little sad for myself for never having the honor of asking him to read my completed manuscript.  Hopefully I'll find a new agent to put at the top of my list.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Shadow Dancer" by Courtney Rene (Book Review)

One of the most popular questions asked is, "If you could have a super power, what would it be?" 
Now, I ask you, who wouldn't want to at least try invisibility?
Have you ever wondered whether or not things hid in the shadows?
How would you feel if you learned that YOU were one of those things?
While reading "Shadow Dancer" I found myself trying to pull a shadow up around myself.  Unfortunately, I don't have the gift, but sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old Sunny does.
Sunny also has other gifts she never knew about.  Sunny meets Leif, from Acadia, who is also a shadow walker and helps her learn new things about herself, her family, and her possible future...
Courtney Rene has a talent for writing the teen voice and brings us inside Sunny's head where we laugh, cry, and scream right along with her.
This is a great story that leaves us wanting to read a sequel and Courtney Rene is just the person to write it.

Order your copy at:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Call For Submissions--The First Line

I know, NaNoWriMo has just begun and here I am updating my blog.  Well, as a matter of fact, I already have 1244 words under my belt and while that is still a bit short of the recommended 1667 words, I'm happy with it for right now. 

Some of you may know that I don't only concentrate on writing for children, I also dabble in essays and adult fiction and poetry.  I figure I should diversify and try a little bit of everything until I find my passion genre.

Although I have a large box filled with story ideas, I really enjoy prompts.  I usually jump at the chance to try my hand at writing a short story from an idea, a sentence, or even a word supplied by a market.

One of the markets I've submitted to in the past is The First Line.  A publication of Blue Cubicle Press, LLC, The First Line is published quarterly.  Their mission is to jump start an author's imagination.  Each issue contains short stories that all start with a common first line.  The First Line is an exercise in creativity and shows readers how even though we are all starting from the same place, writers can branch out in many different directions.

Every story MUST start with the given sentence.  No variations are allowed.

Every November, the prompts for the following year are chosen.  Please feel free to visit the website and expand your horizons.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Bound" by Donna Jo Napoli (Book Review)

A Cinderella story set during China's Ming Dynasty, "Bound" is full of Chinese legends, beliefs, and customs interspersed in the daily life of Xing Xing Wu, her half-sister, Wei Ping, and Stepmother.  The author brings us into their cave dwelling and sits us down on the Wu khang as the bound feet of Wei Ping are tended to, but never discussed aloud.
Never feeling sorry for herself, humble and petite Xing Xing is a talented poet and calligrapher but is no more than a slave girl and afterthought to her stepmother.  We cheer for Xing Xing's fairy tale ending, coming away with some knowledge of ancient Chinese customs.
Fairy tales have been around since the first storyteller.  Sometimes fairy tales teach lessons about greed or expound on the virtues of honesty, humility, and basically doing the right thing.  The Walt Disney Empire made billions of dollars by bringing fairy tales to generations of children through animation and music. 
They teach us that not all bad things happen to good people and that bad people, unless willing to change, eventually get what they deserve.  But most of all, fairy tales give us hope.
The Cinderella story has always been my favorite, which may explain why I've watched Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman more times than I can remember.
Which tale is your favorite?  Why?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unorganized Chaos

Every morning, I wake up and turn on the coffee pot.  I look around at all the chores that need to be done.  In between drinking my coffee and getting ready for work, I do small jobs like straighten the living room, wash the previous night's glasses and cups, etc. and wish I had more time to get things done.
I can't help but wonder if I hadn't spent the time stocking my store on Facebook or stalking friends, I would have had time to do twenty minutes of yoga, a load of laundry, write a story, or heaven forbid, clean my house.
Every night, I lie in bed and make a mental list of things to do the next day, swearing I'll stick to the list, but the next day comes and goes without getting much accomplished.
Lately, I find that unless a chore has a deadline, I will push it to the back burner. 
"Give everything a deadline," you say.  Ha!  I cannot be tricked.  Even when things do have a deadline, I need to wait until right before the date to start the process.  Maybe it's the rebel in me.
I marvel at the people who have their Christmas shopping done before Halloween while I'm still cleaning up the flower gardens I never got around to planting all summer.
I have lists and schedules and I really, really try to be more organized but sometimes I think it's just not in my blood.
What are your strategies for keeping yourself on track?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm just saying...

I know the topic of politics is a no-no in mixed company, and these ramblings are only my opinion, but I was truly annoyed the other night. 
I sat down in front of the television to watch, "Hells Kitchen" and was immediately bombarded with campaign ads.  Now, I'm not at all savvy about politics but I'm learning.  I don't even know what our elected officials' expected duties are.
I know elections are held for the people in a community, state, or country to pick the most popular person who thinks along the same lines and has pretty much the same kind of values as we do.  But, does anyone really know whether or not "Mr./Ms. Popularity" will do what is right?
Mud-slinging, name-calling, and past-dredging are all well-known, acceptable forms of campaigning.  Candidate A and their people endorse and pay for ads that show the dark side of Candidate B.  Sometimes the ads take quotes out of context, dig up family skeletons, and go as far back into Candidate B's past as necessary to portray them as a buffoon or even a villain.  Candidate B makes their own ad to set the record straight and then retaliate by digging up Candidate A's skeletons, etc.
Now, I wonder, why would I want to vote for either of them?
If a candidate and his people have dredged up enough controversy about the other candidate to fill four television commercials, not only does he need to explain what these controversies mean to me, my neighbors, and my countrymen, he also needs to tell me why he deserves the privilege to protect our rights and make changes.  Vague, empty promises, no matter how eloquently written and spoken, just don't cut it anymore.  We're all wide awake now and we're listening. 
Maybe if our elected officials received no free benefits and no more than the average salary of their constituents they would work harder at doing the right thing.  They would also have less money to fund mud-slinging campaign ads.
Who cares if a candidate has marital problems?  Who cares if they experimented with marijuana in college?  Who cares if their family is dysfunctional?  I figure they're more like the average citizen than the candidate who takes photos in front of the church where they worship, with his perfectly coiffed wife, his designer-clad 2.3 children, and his shaggy-haired mutt.  Taking a family photo doesn't prove he isn't an abusive husband or a negligent father posing with a neighbor's dog.
Digging up dirt about another candidate doesn't make them a better candidate.
What I'm trying to say is, being an elected official is not about who you share your bed with, what you read in college, or that matter, which college you attended, it's about doing the right thing for the people who count on you to get the job done correctly, in a timely manner, and in the best interests of the community, state, or country who elected you.
In the end, it all comes down to whether or not you use the power given to you by the people FOR the people. 
I'm just saying...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All My Children

No, not the soap opera...
I've noticed the process of writing can be described as almost being like motherhood. 
An idea is planted in our mind and our imagination nourishes the tiny idea as it splits and grows, just like an embryo.  We turn the idea around and around until it takes shape.  Sometimes, the idea even kicks back at us.
When it is ready, we give birth to the idea into our computer or onto paper with a pencil or pen.  Our idea becomes a rough draft to be further shaped and formed and disciplined.  Much like a young child.
Sometimes our rough draft takes on a life of its own, telling us what it wants to do and where it wants to go.  Just like a mother to a teen, we give it some leeway.  Sometimes our idea surprises us when we watch it go places and do things we never expected.  And sometimes we need to take authority and pull back before it gets out of hand.
When our rough draft is finally a polished story with all the correct elements, discipline and form, we begin to play matchmaker.  And just like any matchmaker, we search for the one place that will love and cherish and appreciate our little darling as much as we do.
Sometimes our little one comes back home rejected.  We cry and feel so badly.  Perhaps we rushed our little one out the door failing to hold it arm's length long enough to see its flaws with a discerning eye.
So, we tidy up our little one, maybe rework it all together, keeping its underlying sense of adventure, and search for another match.
Maybe our little one will never find the perfect match.  Maybe they served only as practice for the entire process of writing and submitting and thickening our skin.  Perhaps someday, bits and pieces of our little ones will meld into a new little one.
Just think of the adventures our little ones have experienced once they leave our hands.  By submitting, we know at least one person will read it.  With any luck, it may be passed on to the next person in the chain of decision.  And sometimes our little ones get accepted and the number of readers may be too large to imagine.
I do know that as writers (and mothers) we owe it to our children to let them go and explore the big world, otherwise they will never grow, and neither will we.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

They're Here! They're Here!

I just received my 2011 Magazine and Book Markets for Children's Writers!  I can't wait to dive in...but the pool is kind of crowded.  I have two previous years' market books on my shelf.
If there is one thing that causes me anxiety, it's to throw away a book of any kind.  I would much rather give it away for free.  Know anyone who is interested in them?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

23 Days Until NaNoWriMo

In 2009, over 160,000 people from all over the world participated.  I was one of them.  Over 30,000 crossed the 50k finish line.  I was one of them.  When it was over, I swore I wouldn't do it again.  So, why did I sign up for 2010?  For me, it's an addiction, that's why.  It's almost a challenge. 
When I signed up, I envisioned a room full of people, their arms crossed in front of their chests, smirks plastered on their faces saying, "Yeah, sure.  You'll never do it."  
It's a valid excuse to sit in front of my computer screen and type until it hurts, just so I could say, "Wanna bet?" 
There are no prizes, no money, just a really large sense of accomplishment and with any luck, a rough draft for a novel.  Probably with a whole bunch of nonsense mixed in, but a rough draft nonetheless.  And that, my friends, is a huge step towards publication. 
Granted, I haven't even looked at my manuscript from last year, but that's alright.  One of these days, that rough draft just may get dusted off and worked on.  Until then, I need to start outlining this year's novel. 
Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo?  Have you done it?  Would you ever attempt it?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Everyone Has A Story

One of the best things about owning an auto repair business on a busy state road is meeting so many interesting people.

I especially enjoy when customers decide to wait for their vehicles while we perform a quick repair such as an oil change or tire repair.  My work area is part of the front office where we also have a waiting room.  Our customers are offered coffee, tea, and snacks while they wait.

I usually try to engage in idle chit-chat to help their waiting time pass quickly.  Through the years I've had the pleasure of speaking to some very interesting people with some very interesting stories to tell.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending approximately thirty minutes with a young man who grew up in Russia.  His family moved to the US about ten years ago.  This young man works with his father as a dog and cat trainer and together they perform with the circus.

As soon as he told me his occupation, a huge smile spread across my face.  I could almost smell the peanuts and cotton candy and I swear I heard the trumpeting of an elephant.

"How exciting!" I said and meant it.  "Almost every child dreams of joing the circus."

"I just returned from Hong Kong.  I also perform solo.  I juggle and do manipulations," he told me.  His Russian accent evoked images of colorful domed palaces.

When he saw my confusion at his juggling description, he showed me a video from YouTube on his phone.  I was very impressed, but then again, celebrities of any kind leave me star-struck.

Perhaps some day, I'll be a celebrity in the literary world and I'll have a story to tell someone.

Have you ever met and talked to a celebrity?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Resistance Is Futile

I resisted as long as I could.

"Who has time to blog?" I asked out loud.  And yet, I find time to plant crops, furnish an apartment, raise pets, and stalk vampires on Facebook.  I find time to read other people's status updates and even find time to read other people's blogs.

"What could I possibly say?" I asked myself and then laughed out loud.  Oh, I've got plenty to say about almost everything.  If nothing else, this block can help save my poor husband from listening to my incessant chatter.

I've decided to make time and who knows?  I just may possibly say something interesting, funny, or profound.  This blogging thing will definitely be a learning process, but I'm a fast learner.  I hope you are a patient reader.

I can do this.  So, here I am and here it is....Welcome to my blog.