Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloweensie Contest

Some of you may know I'm a closet PB writer. There is a contest running this week on Susanna Hill's blog for a PB crit, and here is my 100 word entry using the words black cat, spooky, and cackle. Boo!

Scared of Nothin'

“There’s nothin’ scary about Halloween,” Calvin said. He was dressed as a black cat. “It’s just a bunch of monsters and goblins and stuff.”

“I like the parts with candy corn,” said Lily, a princess with wings.

“I like the candy parts, too,” said Michael. He wore a cowboy hat and boots. “The rest is spooky.”

“Nothin’ scares me,” Calvin said. “Watch this.” He lifted his claws and hissed. Michael and Lily screamed.

A witch walked over and cackled. Calvin jumped, and his cat ears fell off. It was Calvin’s mom. Calvin looked down and smiled. “Almost nothin’ scares me.”

The End of Spookiness


AND, I'm participating in PiBoIdMo, which is a little less daunting than NaNoWriMo (which I'm unofficially participating in)(maybe)(we'll see). So here it goes...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Don't Say F@rt, and Other Things to Teach Your Son

Okay, so I think the word "f@rt" is funny. In fact, I grew up in a family where we used the word often, and it was followed by much laughter and merriment and smelliness. However, my son takes the potty talk to a whole new level (as seven year-old boys are wont to do). He doesn't just say the word. He says it repeatedly with exclamation! points! while wiggling his bottom which is aimed at his sister's face.

So, naturally, I try to curb the potty talk. Don't Say Po0p. Go To Your Room. Look at What You Are Teaching Your Sister! Then, why, the other day, did I check out Captain Underpants and Professor Po0pypants? Well, because I thought it was funny. I quickly found, as I was reading it to him, that I had to edit a lot of the potty talk because we'd never get through it and (oops!) what about all the times I tell him to Cease With the Toilet Words!

Because I suppose, deep down, I'm just as immature as a seven year-old boy.

But come on...Professor Po0pypants?! That's FUNNY. Yesterday I went to the store and bought pork but* for tacos. I couldn't help myself--when I picked my son up from school I told him we were going to have Pig But Tacos. I expected much laughter (which would bring me joy for a minute until it quickly got out of hand and I had to tell him if he said Pig But one more time....!)But instead he said..."GROSS! I'm not eating Pig But! That's disgusting!" I didn't hear the end of it for a long time, and finally told him he could just have Beans (which aren't nearly as funny).

So, in the end, even my son has limits. Which is good to know...says my thirty-three year-old self (while my inner child just snickers and says pig but tacos, heh).

*(I know how to spell the word, but didn't exactly want it searchable in my blog.)(Which is why I edited other scatological terms as well.)(End parentheses.) (And paranoia.)

Update: Well, I just found out that pork but is, in fact, not the pig's bottom. It's the shoulder. And I call myself a homemaker. My tacos are MUCH less amusing now.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

This Querying Thing

I've been at writing novels for a few years, but I finally had a book worth querying only two months ago. (This is not including a small flirtation with querying a picture book a couple years back.) And what may be surprising to you (but not really surprising at all) is...it isn't as fun as I thought it would be! Having a book in the querying stages was a Great Milestone for me, and I thought once I was there it would be like a fun game. But I find it really tests my patience and humility.

However, I have a plan--a targeted number of agents to query before I shelve A PRETTY PIRATE PICKLE, and even an idea for some modifications. But best of all, I am in love in my new book...which isn't so "new" to me. It has been in my head and heart and partially written for several months now. I'm so excited for this project, so that IF it comes time to shelve my first baby...I think I'll be okay. Because my new book is about a small town girl's view of the Space Race with just a twist of science-fiction. Because it's also about loss, family, and miracles. And this time I have the whole book outlined, which is a first for me.

I'd heard a lot about working on your next project to bide your time when querying (and subbing), and there is definitely truth to that. Now off to check my emails! Which I only do once a day. (Okay, I lied. I might check more than once.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

LDS Writer's Blogfest

Thirty-five years ago two young missionaries knocked on the door of a white trailer with black shutters. A young girl, barely twenty, answered. She had a one year-old and a husband who was not yet twenty. This girl and her husband had very different upbringings. He grew up in a strict Catholic home. She grew up as a child of alcoholics. But they wanted the same thing, which was something more for the family they were creating together. And so the missionaries taught them the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and they found that something more. They joined the church within the year, and after I was born we visited the Salt Lake Temple where we were sealed as a forever family.


If this wasn't a blog post of a more spiritual nature, I might make fun of my mom's hair and my dad's mustache.

I had a beautiful upbringing. It wasn't perfect as life goes, but I remember it as pretty near perfect.


Ha! Not that perfect, but I love this picture. (Still holding back on comments about the hair.) 

We loved each other. We always laughed. Every day we laughed. My four siblings and I were close. We did a lot together as a family, and those are my best memories. Not with friends. But with family.

My LDS faith was intertwined with my happiness growing up. I can't really separate one from the other. I'm happy because of my faith, because of my relationship with my family, because of my relationship with God.

What my parents built from that fragile little beginning is so powerful. A few years ago, our family experienced a difficult trial, one which brought us to tears, to our knees. But the way all of us, including our spouses, came together confirmed to me the eternal and ethereal nature of family. Heavenly Father blessed us. He still blesses us.

Now I have the chance to build something amazing with my little family, my husband and three babies. My whole life is them. I see my Heavenly Father's hand in our lives every day. I see Him when they wake up in the morning and rub the sleep from their eyes. I see the divinity of His creation when she nibbles on my face because she's cutting four teeth at the same time. I see the blessings of eternity when we stay at the table even after dinner is over so we can talk and laugh.

I see the face of God in them.


I bear my testimony of the eternal nature of families. And I bear my testimony that Heavenly Father is real, that he is there and cares about you. Whether you had the "perfect" upbringing or your parents were alcoholics, He knows you. He wants you to be happy.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Writer's Voice Entry

I have the chance to participate in the Writer's Voice Contest this year! Here is my entry for the contest judges.
QUERY:
               Please consider my middle-grade novel, A PRETTY PIRATE PICKLE, which is a coming-of-age Eloise set on a cruise ship instead of the Plaza Hotel.
The luxury cruise ship, Scandinavian Sapphire, only survives the high seas because eleven year-old Liza, daughter of Captain Owen, checks for icebergs every sunrise, sends POGs (pukey old guys) to the ship’s infirmary, and rids the ship of any and all vermin—particularly the peg-legged, eye-patch-wearing type of vermin.
Her mild obsession with the bestselling Pirates and Princesses series has no connection to her suspicions that Henry Weston, the “resident guitarist,” is a bona fide scallywag schooled by Blackbeard himself. And he’s in love with Liza’s aunt Mel, who looks past Henry’s Jack-Sparrow-like qualities and sees only roguish handsomeness, a rawther lovely British accent, and charm more sparkly than the ship’s million-dollar jewel exhibition which Liza is sure Henry’s after—because nothing says “pirate booty” like crown jewels from every country in the Baltic.
Mysterious meetings in Denmark, too many “band practices,” and alleged tampering with the security cameras has Liza convinced her suspicions are correct, and there is nobody to help stop the heist except Tilly, her friend-of-the-week, and Liza’s iguana, Iggy—who, face it, can’t help her because he’s a lizard. But Liza is determined to save the ship, her daddy’s hat, and Mel from the evil clutches of dread pirate Henry.

FIRST 250:
Only one obstacle lies between me and the front-most tip of the ship. My fingers wrap around the handle of the wooden sword hanging from my belt. A brigade of blood-thirsty pirates I can manage. Even an ultra-sonic super villain with x-ray vision. But these two gangly man-boys from the theater playing basketball on the sports deck? My dad would ground me for a week if I maimed a member of his crew.
I take a deep breath of the briny sea air gusting by me and whipping at the rolled-up maps under my arm. Having just raced through the ship—using only practical short cuts such as the grand staircase banister—these guys could have an edge. I nod to the neon-suited ladies from Kids Club circling the jogging path. I may need witnesses if this ends ugly.
I unsheathe my sword just barely—ready for the draw should they dare strike first—and walk through the game. One of the players stops the ball with two hands then cradles it under his arm. The other looks at me with raised eyebrows and a half-smile. “Oh. Are we in your way?” he asks.
With the quickness of the finest swordsgirl on the seven seas, I withdraw my weapon. Its blunt but intimidating wooden tip hovers between them and me. And they have the nerve to laugh.
“I’ll have you know,” I say in my deepest and fiercest belly voice. “I have a ship to save today. And no swashbuckling scallywags are going to stop me.” 

Monday, April 22, 2013

When Funny Takes the Cake

About four years ago, I had a sudden idea I wanted to decorate cakes. I needed a mom hobby, and cakes taste good. Of course, I had fiddled with writing by now. But as Bermuda Scott and the Anywhere Box never became an actual book, my writing deflated like an under-baked cake with an expired leavening agent.

(pause of appreciation for over-the-top metaphor which is actually a simile)

I shared my cake-decorating dream with my mom, my champion, and she told me it was a terrible idea. I'm still not sure why, to this day, she told me it was a terrible idea. I've teased her about it enough. But maybe she was right because after baking a few birthday cakes for my son and niece and nephew (and uh...having her fix the frosting on a few), my passion sort of fizzled out like...like a bad book idea involving a traveling linesman's daughter and her discovery of a place-travel family heirloom box.

Fast forward just a bit, and I picked up writing again. I told my mom I wanted to write, that I was serious, more serious than birthday cakes. She loved the idea...encouraged me...bought me writing books! And so I attempted to write my HAUNTINGLY BEAUTIFUL young adult novel called Pieces of Moon, which went leaps beyond my first attempts at writing a book. In fact, I finished it. And It was ugly. And I started writing it again.

Sometime during this rewrite there was a day my mom told me about a funny book she'd read. Then she told me that I should write "funny." But silly mom who knew little about writing and once squashed my cake decorating dream...why would I write "funny" when I was trying to write HAUNTINGLY BEAUTIFUL?

But after I moved to Texas, I realized that I wasn't enjoying my hauntingly beautiful young adult novel. So I eventually did start "funny" and finished it a year later. And, for me, I've had a much better experience with A Pretty Pirate Pickle. At the end of the day, after I've been changing diapers and potty training and cooking and playing sibling referee, it's been a nice escape for me. I still haven't given up on HAUNTINGLY BEAUTIFUL--or cake decorating for that matter-- but I think funny fits me better.

And so my mom was right.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Me, a Mustache, and a Sick Little Girl

Blogger Shallee McArthur is doing a great giveaway for author-in-need, Chad Morris - who wrote this beautiful post about why his debut novel, The Inventor's Secret, is being put on hold for now. And so while this author is taking care of his sweet little girl, the author/writer community is coming together to promote his book for him. His little girl loves mustache pictures, and so to brighten her days many have been posting them online.

Here is mine:

Shallee is giving away a pages and query critique, a copy of Chad's novel, and a query critique from her agent. You can enter by blogging/tweeting/facebooking your biggest secret or your own mustache picture to happify Maddie. 

My secret is that you can add mustaches to your pictures here. Okay, a better secret is that the new book I'm working on has aliens.

I'm probably not the first you heard this from. I looked at Chad's Amazon rankings yesterday and then again today. It jumped from in the 14,000's in books to in the 2,000's today. A lot of people are giving this debut novel and author a chance while a dad takes care of his sweet child's life, and that makes me more happy than mustache pictures.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Son and the Tooth Fairy's Rough Beginnings

Yesterday my son got into the car after school with a new tooth necklace, compliments of the school nurse, containing yet another blood-encrusted tooth. He now is missing his four front teeth, and this only weeks before we plan to take family photos. Apples are not an option anymore, and I think he's going to have to learn to gum his food like a ninety year-old man. But the main repercussion is that my son, on his quest to become toothless, has formed a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the tooth fairy.

This began innocently enough. In October, his great-grandma sent her usual holiday card with two one dollar bills - one for my son and one for his little sister. As dollar bills go in our house, they floated around the kitchen for a couple months, somehow the dollar bill deemed his sister's ended up crumpled, and they were almost forgotten.

Then the day came we placed his first tooth under a pillow. I told him about the tooth fairy - spinning the same story my parents spun for me about her building a castle of teeth - and wondering when this Santa, Easter Bunny, tooth fairy business is going to end because I feel like I'm lying to my son. (And by the way, Mom and Dad, a castle out of teeth is kind of gross, but I'll carry on the tradition...) Conveniently I...that is, The Tooth Fairy found a dollar bill floating around our kitchen to exchange with the tooth under his pillow.

To make an already long story less long, in the morning my son told me that he had ripped up the note and dollar bill because it was his sister's crumpled dollar bill from his grandma that the tooth fairy left. Oops. I knew my son was observant to detail, but even that exceeded my expectations. All that Scottish-Irish-Peruvian-German blood inside of him can really boil when provoked. And I think part of him was figuring out this tooth fairy thing might not be real.


(I kept the money and note in a plastic baggie to show him one day...or to tape back together when times get rough.) Instead of letting him continue to question the existence of a little person with wings that builds castles of everybody's yellowing teeth, I told him sternly that the tooth fairy was going to have to wait a couple teeth before she gives him more money. Oh and that ripping up money is against the law so don't do it again.

He stopped being angry, decided to give the tooth fairy another chance, and so after skipping a tooth or two, she brought him this....


So far, no money has been crushed, torn, or otherwise destroyed. In fact, the tooth fairy, in a gesture of forgiveness, brought my son his first dollar bill last night since The Incident.

I like to come away from any story with some kind of moral or insight. Lying to your child about mythical beings only creates more problems? Use only the special tooth fairy glitter money posted all over Pinterest lest your child isn't easily fooled? No, I got it. Enjoy your children. Teach them when they make mistakes. Then laugh about it and write a blog post later.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And Done! (for now)

Last night I sent my book to my beta readers. This was a very big moment for me, having my book "ready" enough to be read (and critiqued) by others. When I looked ahead to this moment, I thought I'd bake myself a cake. But I didn't. Instead, I went upstairs and did some laundry. I edited my book twice before I sent it out, and maybe that was too many times for something that may still change a lot based on the feedback I get from my readers. But I felt like my manuscript deserved it. It was like sending my child to school in clean clothes even though they'll be dirty in an hour. So without further adieu, here is my (in-progress) query so you have a better idea of this book I wrote.

A Pretty Pirate Pickle

The luxury cruise ship, Scandinavian Sapphire, only survives the high seas because Liza, daughter of Captain Owen, checks for icebergs every sunrise, sends POGs (pukey old guys) to the ship’s infirmary, and rids the ship of any and all vermin—particularly the peg-legged, eye-patch-wearing type of vermin.

Her mild obsession with the bestselling Pirates and Princesses series has no connection to her suspicions that Henry Weston, the “resident guitarist,” is a bona fide scallywag schooled by Blackbeard himself. And he’s in love with Liza’s aunt Mel, who looks past Henry’s Jack-Sparrow-like qualities and sees only roguish handsomeness, a rawther lovely British accent, and charm more sparkly than the ship’s million-dollar jewel exhibition which Liza is sure Henry’s after—because nothing says “pirate booty” like crown jewels from every country in the Baltic.

Mysterious meetings in Denmark, too many “band practices,” and alleged tampering with the security cameras has Liza convinced her suspicions are correct, and there is nobody to help stop the heist except Tilly, her friend-of-the-week, and Liza’s iguana, Iggy—who, face it, can’t help her because he’s a lizard. But Liza is determined to save the ship, her daddy’s hat, and Mel from the evil clutches of dread pirate Henry.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What They CAN Do

This morning I poured my daughter a cup of Cherrios. (Cereal is no good in a bowl with milk, but must be eaten while watching Tangled under her favorite red blanket and IN A CUP. Only then, is it worth eating.) However, in the mood that strikes every quarter of an hour and yet always takes me by surprise, she threw that cup on the ground. Cherrios skittered across the floor and under the stove and beneath my foot where they like to crunch and stick. Then she waited...

"What are you going to do about it, Mommy?" Well, she didn't really say that, but her eyes did. Oh how those three year-old eyes can speak.

I told her she had to pick them up, every last one. There was some pouting and screaming, but she did start to pick them up. She even ate some off the floor which may not have been the most germ-free cleaning method. And well, she didn't pick up every last one. I swept the rest after she tried the broom and made an even bigger mess.

When my kids test their limits, I imagine them in this metaphorical kid-size bubble (made out of this mythical stretchy substance that doesn't burst), and they're inside spreading their arms and stretching their legs to see how far the bubble will go. Like when my daughter stares me down while releasing her high-decibel screams, coming out in bursts like our carbon monoxide alarm. Or when she sneaks out of bed and puts her bedroom through the nap time apocalypse. Or much like it, when my son keeps getting out of bed at night (why don't kids like their beds as much as we do?) to "check on us," which is sweet until he's still up at eleven o'clock at night no matter how often we threaten to take away Skylanders. As parents we have to tell them where to stop. Sometimes I do, like yesterday when I packed up his video game and put it in the closet. However, other times I just ignore her when she screams because nothing else seems to work or give up and accept that she's just growing out of naps.

But I've been thinking about that metaphorical bubble and how I focus so much on what my children CAN'T do instead of what they CAN do. While they're stretching and spreading and reaching, they're also growing.

I want my children to know how a positive outlook can not only impact themselves but the entire family, that happiness is shared not hoarded. When my son didn't want to return to school after his long and full Christmas break, I chose the reality-check method. "You need to go. Everyone goes. You will be in school for the next twenty years so get used to it." While it may have its virtues, what about, "Let's think about what we CAN do to make today better. Every time you get a drink, think about building a snowman with Grandma and Grandpa in Kansas. Today ask two friends what they did for Christmas. When you write in your class journal this morning, smile when you write 2013."

I want them to know what they CAN create because I believe our creative potential is essential to happiness. My son loves Legos. He will construct the ghost train and Hogwarts almost completely by his six year-old self. I think this is great, but what I love more is when he digs into the box of mis-matched Legos and makes his own creation. He tells me exactly what it is, and I can see where his imagination has filled in the blanks. Then we put it on his Lego shelf next to the firetruck and Hobbit hole and Ninjago helicopter. I bought some sticker mosaics recently, and began working on one with my daughter, realizing early on the project was much too old for her. But she decorated that little princess board in a haphazard and sparkly way, proudly carrying it in her hands for a couple hours. It is now hanging in front of me.

I want my kids to know they CAN pray everyday. Such a simple thing, and their lives will be better for it. The world will be better for it.

We get so caught up in this parenting business. We dress them and feed them, change them and bathe them (and before we know it the day is gone). It's easy for me to focus on controlling the little emergencies with a "can't" instead of a "can" because I'm mixing up my turkey meatballs, the baby needs to eat, and there's still poop on the carpet. But I'd really, really like to change this. I'd like to empower my children with that divine spark I know they each have. I want to inspire them to fulfill the incredible potential before them, and I know I can because surely there is no limit to what I CAN do.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The World Didn't End. Now What?

First things first. A new blog look of course. And since I tired of the bird template, I'll try weeds. The blowy, fluffy, whimsical kind of weeds that make wishes come true.

How was your New Year? We celebrated 45 minutes early because we thought it would be a good idea to let our six year-old stay up until midnight. That, we found, is the opposite of a good idea. So New Years came a little bit early. We celebrated it by throwing confetti (ripped up ledger pad paper) and toasting to new beginnings (diet coke in glasses). My son's near-midnight toast was loaded with his favorite words of the solid waste variety followed by hysterical laughter.

Looking back at the old year I managed a lot between moving and having a baby and not-but-almost-finishing my book, but I'm excited for what I can accomplish in this new year because there won't be a move and there won't be a new baby. (BUT, there WILL be a book in its finished form. I'm very close.)

But most of all I'm just glad 2013 is here at all. I have to admit that having written a book about the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy, I was a little on edge. However, I was thinking more about my kids not crashing into trees on a snow-covered hill in Kansas on the 21st rather than the apocalypse. So given this renewed (tangent: my son used the word "renew" today in an appropriate context, I was so proud) chance on living in this world, I am looking forward to a better me which includes yoga and scriptures and more blog posts but most of all me being a better mother and wife. What are your hopes for the new year?