Monday, December 17, 2012

Freedom from Fear

Freedom from Fear, by Norman Rockwell
"Freedom from Fear." 

Sadly, this is a freedom our children may not enjoy for long in their lives. Innocence is stripped from them at an increasingly alarming rate. My heart goes out to all those affected by the senseless events in Connecticut--and especially the families of the victims.

Everyone is desperate to find a solution--a way to stop things like this from happening. I wish I had an answer, but I think there will always be evil in the world. Unstoppable and uncontrollable evil.

What I would love to hear from you readers, are your thoughts on how we as parents, teachers, and adults can help our children have a life with Freedom from Fear.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cover Reveal: A Blind Eye

From Covenant Communications
At last I get to reveal to the world my book cover! I'm so happy with how it turned out. It's perfect for the book. Hats off to my publisher's design team!

Coming February, 2013

 Seventeen-year-old Christian Morris decides the only way to save himself from his father's neglect is to run away from home. On his way out of town, he finds a stowaway hiding in his car—Scarlett, who has been kidnapped from London. Blind since birth, Scarlett has developed a sixth sense: she dreams about someone’s death before it happens. And now, she has dreamed about her own. 
Christian’s attempt to leave home turns into a race to save Scarlett from death by scientific experimentation. His growing relationship with the girl helps him to look past his own blindness and confront the truth about his father. But first, he must find the kidnappers before they can get to Scarlett.

Earn brownie points AND good karma by spreading the word. Tweet and Facebook and send people this way. I will always return the favor.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How Do You Feel about Love Triangles

All, right. Let's get right down to it. In YA literature, love triangles are everywhere. Example from Twilight: the Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle.

I want to know how you feel about love triangles. Do you like them? Hate them? Don't really care? Depends on how it's written?

As a genreal rule, I don't like them. I don't mind so much if it's simply a case of two people liking the same person. Two boys like the same girl. What I hate is when that one person strings along the other two.

I have to fall back on the Twilight example. Bella likes Edward, and she seems set in her feelings towards him. But she also sort of likes Jacob, even though she claims there is no chance she'll ever end up with him. Instead of cutting him loose she strings him along. We see this kind of thing all the time in YA lit.

I think the reason I can't stand this type of scenario is because it makes the character doing the stringing appear unfaithful, cruel, and selfish. Why would either of the guys put up with that? The story loses credibility and my sympathy for the characters.

What are your thoughts on the love triangle?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Want ~Norman Rockwell
I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving this week. 

I've always loved this Norman Rockwell painting. Freedom from Want. Look at those faces! I love it. A typical family with a typical thanksgiving meal, but they look so happy just to be together. 

Norman Rockwell painted a whole series of Freedom paintings: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship... They're stunning. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the little things, our pet-peeves and our grievances, that we overlook the big picture--our innumerable blessings.

So here's me hoping we all can find gratitude in our hearts this season to forgive someone we feel has wronged us, to smile and let go of any bitterness we may be harboring, and to dwell on the good in our lives. 


“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives.” 

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” 

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” 

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” 

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo Success--It Can Be Yours!

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, I'm a believer.

My first NaNo year was 2010. I did it. I wrote my whole novel in one month. Then I spent the next year revising it and running it through my crit group--the amazing Sharks and Pebbles. Then I sold it to a publisher and it's coming out in February.

I am a SLOW writer. If I can do it, anyone can!! You just have to find the NaNo method that works for you.

So, in case anyone out there finds this helpful, here are some tips that work for me:

~ Some great advice I picked up I can't remember where is to take the first 5 minutes of each NaNo session and brainstorm a few BRIEF bullet points of what needs to happen in your plot next. You only need to worry about the next scene or two. Once you have that, it's A LOT easier to get those words out. 
I'm not much of an outliner in general because things change so much as I write. But if I take these 5 minutes to plot out the near future, it makes a huge difference in how quickly I meet my daily goal.

~ DON'T SELF EDIT! Everyone says this because it is the hardest rule to stick to. If you feel you've written something awful or derailed the plot, just strikethrough those paragraphs to remind yourself you hate them, then move on. That way you still get the word count, and if you change your mind later and decide keep them, there they are!

~ Keep your fingers on the keyboard! It's so easy to simply stop typing and lean back to think, or check Facebook or twitter, or go get a snack. Resist! Keep those fingers on the keyboard and type away. If you're not sure what comes next, just keep typing the scene you're in, even if it will all be deleted later.  
I had a scene where my two main characters were eating, but I wasn't sure what needed to happen next, so I dragged out the meal, describing in detail the most mundane parts about their burgers and fries. It kept me writing until the inspiration on how to move on finally came. NaNo is an exercise in free-flowing thought, not creating a masterpiece in one month.

Find what motivates you. For me, it's watching that little target bar in Scrivener slowly change from red to green. 

Please, please, please share your tricks and secrets for a successful NaNoWriMo!!

Happy writing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

SHADOWED by Stephanie Black

2012 Covenant Communications, Inc
I'm excited today to offer my review of Stephanie Black's latest novel, Shadowed. Stephanie is a four time winner of the Whitney Award, and it's easy to see why.

From the back cover (condensed):

Gifted musician Catherine Clayton was born into a life of wealth and privilege. Now, she’s using the family money to establish a music school and offer free lessons to the underprivileged. Catherine selects Riley, New York, as the perfect location for her new school.

Two years ago, Riley was rocked by the brutal murder of elementary school secretary Olivia Perry. Her murder remains unsolved. Catherine receives ominous warnings that Adam Becket is responsible for her death. Unimpressed by the lack of evidence against him, Catherine is drawn to the shy but endearing Adam. When death threats prove the killer is back--and mark Catherine as the next target--Catherine wonders if Adam could really have been involved in Olivia’s murder. 

My take:

Shadowed is loaded with great characters, suspense, and just the right amount of romance. Stephanie Black is a master of keeping the reader guessing right up to the very end. Her characters have depth and believability, and her writing style is clear and easy to read. You get drawn into the story and it's hard to put the book down until you reach the exciting conclusion.

The protagonist, Catherine, is strong and smart, but because of her privileged life she's also a little naive. Her personal struggles and flaws bring a nice realness to her character. Adam brings a starkly different element to the story as the man accused of murdering Olivia. I loved the way he dealt with those accusations. The setting of Riley, New York really took on a personality of its own.

I have so many favorite parts and plot twists I want to mention, but I can't because it would be a spoiler. You'll just have to stop by Amazon or Deseret Book and get yourself a copy. Then, let's talk!

Anyone who enjoys a good suspense novel along the lines of the Mary Stewart classics will love Shadowed.

On a completely unrelated note:
I can't let November 5th pass without saying Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Did you know that some people believe Shakespeare was also involved in the Gunpowder Plot?
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Safety Tips: Supernatural Style

With Halloween coming up this week, I thought I'd post a few safety tips I've learned from watching my favorite TV show, Supernatural.

On All Hallows Eve there could be all kinds of ghoulish creatures roaming about. One can never be too careful.

You should be fine if you follow these tips:

Watch your back. If something creepy is after you, it will ALWAYS sneak up from behind. And usually from the direction you were just looking a moment ago.

Do not split up! The surest way to come face to face with something scary is to split up. People of the movies, when will you ever learn?

~ If you hear a strange noise coming from your closet (or the room down the hall, or--heaven forbid--from the cellar) DO NOT CHECK IT OUT. I repeat, do NOT slowly and hesitantly approach the sound, especially if the lights won't turn on and there is intense, unsettling music playing in the background.

~ Never leave any part of your body exposed outside of the covers. The covers are your friends, stay under them. And DO NOT dangle your feet over the edge of the bed.

~ Never back up to a window. Inevitably the creature/demon/zombie/evil clown/vampire/ghost will break the glass and grab you. In fact, keep your window locked. And if you hear something tapping against it, it is most certainly NOT the wind.

~ Salt is your friend, keep it close. Silver bullets or iron blades are also recommended, but harder to take on airplanes.

If there's one thing I've learned, you can never be too careful.

Have a happy and SAFE Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2012

On Fall, Shakespeare, Life and Death

I love fall. I love the cool temps, the color and the anticipation of change that permeates the cool air.

But three years ago my perception of fall shifted. It was on a beautiful day in October when I got a phone call that my sister had collapsed. Seven weeks later she was gone. I spent most of those seven weeks at her home, helping with her children, and watching the leaves drop one by one.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Thanks Shakespeare. You really do say it best. I still love the autumn. I still miss my sister.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Truth Is Out There

I thought today might be a good day for a science update:

You've all heard of SETI--the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The foundation that uses volunteers to scan data from space in hopes of detecting radio signals from intelligent aliens. Actually, what they really use is the volunteer's computer. SETI@home uses spare processing power on the participant's computer to analyze the data.

Now SETI has a new program where they send live waterfall signals to volunteers who then use their own brain processing power to distinguish between regular space "noise" and alien signals. SETILive.

Why is SETILive better than SETI@home? As the name implies, with SETILive the viewer is filtering live feeds instead of the computer scanning data that could be months old.
Image from SETILive (

Last time they found a signal that looked like it was from ET, by they time they noticed it and set their instruments on it, it had vanished. With SETILive, they could zoom in immediately.

Who knows? Maybe the first contact with intelligent alien life could take place in your own home.

Which gives me a good idea for a couples Halloween costume: an alien, and the science geek who discovered it!

See or for more information.

Related posts:
How to Survive an Alien Invasion

Monday, October 8, 2012

All Hallow's Read

What is All Hallow's Read?

In the words of Neil Gaiman, creator of All Hallow's Read (he's so silly):

Basically, you give someone a scary book for Halloween. Appropriately scary, of course. It can be a kid, a grown up, anyone you know (or don't know. Even strangers like to read. And who doesn't want  a free book?)


If you go the All Hallow's Read site, you will find lots of answers to FAQs and also cool extras, such as this book plate that you can print out and affix to the book you are giving away. Or print it onto card stock and make it a bookmark.

On the All Hallow's Read site you can also find book recommendations by Neil Gaiman and links to lists by others.

Here are a few of our family's favorite Halloween reads:

Picture Books:

Middle Grade:
  Young Adult:

Ok, so maybe Keturah isn't a Halloween read per se, but since it came out with this new creepy cover it looks like one. And it has Death as a main character. And it's awesome.

What are some scary (or cute, Halloween can be cute) books you'd recommend?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Release Date

So I finally have a release date for my novel, A Blind Eye.

February 2013

It's sooner than I expected, but I'm not complaining. So now begins the first round of edits, the waiting to see the cover, and trying to find people to actually buy the book and read it!

If any of you readers out there have tips or secrets or advice you'd like to share, I'm seriously all ears.

Things you wish you'd done differently? Mistakes I should avoid? Great ideas? I'll take anything.

In the mean time--here's a teaser:

A Blind Eye
Some people are born blind. For some, tragedy leaves them blind. And then there are those who simply refuse to see. This is a story about all three.

In an attempt to escape his heartless and disinterested father, seventeen-year-old Christian runs away from home. But when he finds Scarlett--blind from birth--hiding in his car, his efforts to leave become a race to save her from death by scientific experimentation. Forced to return to his father, he learns that Scarlett is not the only one who cannot see.  

Agent Mary Kole is giving away a copy of the 2013 Children's Writer's and Illistrator's Market on her blog. These books are a goldmine of information on both perfecting the writing craft and finding an agent or publisher. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Books Should I Read For Halloween?

Every October I put myself in the Halloween mood by reading creepy, scary, or disturbing books.

But I'm running out of ideas so I'm asking the blogosphere for suggestions.

Here are a few that I really enjoyed, just to give you and idea of what I like.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Basically anything that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. But nothing too satanic, that's where I draw the line.

So bring it on. What suggestions do you have?

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Finding Time

Free Stock Images: Times up. Image: 112269I've seen a lot of blog posts lately about finding time to do all the stuff we want to do.

When someone mentions one of their accomplishments like crafting, running, cooking, writing--anything that is not a bare essential, I often hear other people exclaim, "Oh! I wish I had time for that!"

The fact is, we all have the same amount of time. The only difference is how we allocate it.

I believe it's all about priorities. Stephen Covey used to do an object lesson where he would ask a person to fill a jar full of sand and rocks. Usually, the person couldn't make all the material fit into the jar because they added the sand first. Covey would take the jar and first put in the big stuff--the rocks, and then the medium stuff--the pebbles, and then let the sand filter in. A lot more fit into the jar that way.

And so it is with life. First, get the big stuff in place--the things that feel more like essentials than priorities: working for a living, taking care of our families and home, school and church and such.

For some, this big stuff takes up a huge amount of time, and it varies with the different stages of life--all my kids are in school all day so that has opened up more time for me.

Then decide which of the medium things are most important to you and fit those into your schedule. For me, this includes my writing time, some down time (which is something that I value and need), some exercise time, reading time, and so forth.

Last, try to fit in the little things, the stuff you care least about when you step back and look at your life objectively. Not all will be able to fit into your life. I've given up many hobbies and interests--even some so-called life-long dreams--to make time for writing.

I find that when people say, "Oh, I wish I had time for that." what they really mean is, "That is not a high priority in my life so I gave it up, even though I still miss it sometimes."

Finding time for everything is almost impossible and the need to be objective is absolute.

If you find that you never seem to have time for a particular activity that you claim to love, perhaps it is because you don't love it as much as you thought you did. Maybe giving it up for a better, higher priority is something to consider.

Specifically, writing. Although the idea of being a published author appeals to you, if you find you never have the time to write, maybe you love the idea of writing more than the actual act of writing. When you land a contract or an agent, the pressure increases ten-fold--so you'd better make sure you're ready to invest lots and lots and lots of time to writing.

Just something to consider. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It Doesn't Cost Me to Be Nice

Whenever I think about kindness, a song from the musical Les Miserables comes to mind. It's the part where the innkeeper says, "It doesn't cost me to be nice."

Although he is being sarcastic because he's trying to milk his guests of every last cent, the words themselves hit home.

Kindness really is free. It has a much greater rate of return than meanness or gossip or exclusion or withholding a compliment. Why poison ourselves trying to push others down when we can so easily lift them?

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” 
― Henry James

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” 
― Anne Frankdiary of Anne Frank

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
 For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
 For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
 For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
 For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. 
 People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
 As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.” 
― Sam Levenson

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” 
― Plato

Why does our society struggle so much with kindness? Or does it?

Are we a kind people? Do you have a story of kindness you'd like to share?

Link up to The Kindness Project at Elana Johnson's blog.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Help! How Do You Write a First Draft?

So, I've written three complete novels. One to be published late next year.

I just finished my third a week or two ago.

And now, as I stare at a blank Scrivener document, I can't remember how to write something new.

Oh sure, I have lots of stories percolating in my brain. I don't have writer's block per se.

I just can't remember how to get the ball rolling.

So I need your advice.

What are your tips and trade secrets to spewing out that first draft? Do you outline? Do you wing it? Do you write without chapter divisions? Do you write in scenes? Where do you go to generate plot ideas? What is your one, fail-proof step that helps you get the story flowing?

Please feel free to elaborate!

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Do People Want? Good Writing or Good Story?

There has been a lot of buzz lately about whether the publishing industry sets the bar on writing too high, and that what people really want is just a good story.

So which is it? Writing or Story?

Do readers only care about easy entertainment? Do they like the familiarity of the same stories told over and over again with only minor plot changes? Is real life so stressful that all we want is to lose ourselves in a simple, predictable form of entertainment?

I have a friend who said she didn't want to read books that challenged her way of thinking. She said she already finished college and didn't want her reading to feel like homework. Is that how everyone feels?

Some people worry that really great works of fiction will be overlooked as more and more readers get caught up in the commercial, no-brainer stories, and then all we'll have left is the slush pile.

Is there still room for good writing and thought provoking works of fiction? Years from now, who will we be quoting?

Is this surge of mediocrity in fiction only a phase brought on by poor economic times? Or is society lowering its standards?

What place does the indy and self-publishing industry hold in all this turmoil?

Which is more important to a work of fiction, good story or good writing?

Monday, August 20, 2012

College Advice

Today's post is on a more personal note.

In a few hours we will be dropping our oldest child off at college. It scares the living daylights out of me. He is going beyond the range of our safety net.

I hate to be cliche, but where did the time go? It really does pass in the blink of an eye.

Blink--kindergarten. Blink again--junior high. Blink--ohmyheck he's driving. And now he's out the door and on his way.

He's a great kid and I know he'll do well, but what can I say? I'm a mother. I worry.

So, as I enter this new phase of parenting, I'm open to advice.

All you parents who have done this before--what are the dos and don'ts? What worked for you? Any mistakes I should avoid?

And all you youngsters out there--what did your parents do that you appreciated? How did they help? How did they not help?

I look forward to lots of useful comments. Please... I'm desperate.

And because I'm old and feeling particularly nostalgic, here's a very sappy but true Joni Mitchell video: Circle Song

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Judging a Book by its Cover

We've all heard this saying a million times: You can't judge a book by its cover.

But I really wish you could.

Some of my favorite books in the world have unattractive covers. Granted that's just my opinion and someone else probably loves the covers I hate.

How many times have you recommended a book and added the caveat to ignore the hideous cover.

Cover styles come and go. But lately, there has been a huge surge of nearly identical covers--especially in Young Adult fiction. Just click on this link and check out the covers of the 2012 YA debut novels.

Luckily, I think (hope) the random girl in a flowing dress (which usually has NOTHING to do with the story) is going out. Now we're seeing the close-up of a face with a haunted look.

We all know that as authors we have no say (or in some cases very little say) about our covers. Each book is marketed to a specific audience, so if a prom-dress is what's selling, then I guess it makes sense for every book to have one?

What do I prefer? I like covers that set the tone of the story, that give us a hint of what to expect. I like covers that leave the looks of the main characters up to my imagination. The character in my mind never matches the one on the cover.

Here are a few covers that I love because they convey the tone of the book and are visually enticing. 

What covers do you love? What covers do you hate?

If you are already published, what was your experience regarding the cover of your book?

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

I've always felt like it's important to give my fictional characters meaningful names. Names that say something about the character and give them added depth.

Draco Malfoy, Napoleon Dynamite, Huckleberry Finn, Ebenezer Scrooge, Malvolio. Each of these names evokes something about the character.

But it's not that easy to come up with great names.

Here are a few quick tips I picked up from various places:

1. Make it easy to read. Especially in fantasy and science fiction. Readers don't like stumbling over names as they read a story. A name can be easy to read and still sound exotic, foreign or futuristic.

2. Make the name appropriate to the time period. Use census data or the Social Security Name Popularity List to find names that were common to the time period of your story.

3. Consider the meaning of the words in the name. What does the root of the name mean? What country does it come from? For example compare the name Sunny to Draco; Lucy to Lucia.

4. Consider what the name means to the general public. If you pick the name Brittany readers will immediately think of Brittany Spears. Is that who you want your character associated with?

I have this book called The Baby Name Survey Book that lists hundreds of names and what the general public's first impression is about someone with that name.

Example: My name is Julie, here is what the book says about it: 
Image: The name Julie calls to mind a tall, quiet woman who is pleasant and average. 
And then it lists several famous Julies that people might associate with that name, such as Julie Andrews.
5. Avoid overused and cliche names. Like Jack. How many big strong heroes are named Jack? Unless of course you're going for the cliche.

What are your favorite fictional names? I'd love to hear your examples of best character names.

What are your tips for naming your own characters?

And let me know if you want me to look up your name in my awesome book.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Proper Care and Receiving of Criticism

As writers, we are constantly putting our writing out there for critique. We have writing groups, beta-readers, we win a critique from someone, we get a rejection letter enumerating all that is wrong with our story. It's a tough business and we need a thick skin.

So let's talk a little about how to receive criticism. Some of it is valuable, some of it--not so much. How do you know what to accept and what to reject?

First of all, consider the source. If an agent or editor tells you the story is too slow or the voice is off, listen. Agent feedback is valuable and almost always spot on.

When it comes to your writing group, some might feel it is their job to point out as many problems as possible. If they have no negative feedback they feel they are failing at their responsibility so they may dwell on the nit-picky. As we say in my group, scraping the bottom of the barrel. Stew on their advice and then go with your gut reaction.

Non-writer feedback can be useful because they tend to look at the story as a whole. But if your writing falls outside of their preferred genre, their feedback could mean nothing.

Second, pay attention to the feedback's level. Criticism that considers the story as a whole is more valuable than the nit-picky. If a reader mentions overall plot issues, says the story didn't hook them, it was confusing, didn't care about the main characters, too much repetition, too slow--those are red flags. Listen up and fix it.

If the feed back is full of nit-picky small stuff then those are the kinds of changes you think about and then go with what you feel is right for your story.

If a reader says your story just really isn't their thing, no problem. Move on. They are not the target audience.

In the end, all criticism is based on personal opinion and should be carefully considered. Most writers and readers that offer feedback are well-meaning and want to help you write the best story you can, so don't get offended or disheartened by negative comments. Listen to them, think about why that person said what they did, and then use those comments to strengthen your writing.

What are your tips for receiving (or giving) criticism?

Coincidentally, Mary Kole wrote an excellent article on agent vs. paid editorial feedback and why agents say the things they do. Check it out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Things I Love

Sorry I've been the absent blogger these past few weeks, I've been traveling England and Scotland with my family.

I'm so excited to show off my new prize possessions that I got on our trip.

My new Complete Works of William Shakespeare, purchased from  his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. They even stamped an official bookplate into it. 

I've been wanting a complete works for a long time, but I decided to wait and buy it in Stratford. I don't know what took me so long. 

The complete, 100 year anniversary limited edition collection of books by Beatrix Potter. Purchased from her home in the Lake District, Hill Top Farm. I can't even say how much I love these! They are so beautiful.

Now I just need to go back to the UK to pick up the places I didn't have time to visit this time: Bath or Chawton for a complete works of Jane Austen, and Haworth for the Bronte sisters.

Years ago, I bought Wuthering Heights at Haworth, but it's been read so much it finally fell apart.

To read more about the great literary places I visited, see my post at the Utah Children's Writers blog.

What are some things that you love and inspire you?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bring On Summertime!

Ladies and Gentlemen, bring on summertime!

I love summer. Not because of the nice weather. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a cold weather person. I'll take wind and rain any day. So why do I love summer so much. Here are the reasons!

1. No more HOMEWORK. By the end of the school year I'm sick to death of nagging my kids about homework and grades. Sick. To death.

2. Home is safe. I'm like a mother hen, always wanting my kids gathered safely under my wing. It's getting harder and harder to gather them, especially as my oldest just graduated form high school and my next oldest is 6' 4" and will be a senior. Young adult kids don't like to be under their mother's wings.

3. Sleeping in. I'm NOT a morning person. We get up at 6:15 during the school year. Summer, I'm usually rolling out of the sack around 8:00. (I can hear the collective gasps from all you morning people. Overachievers.)

4. Relaxed schedule. We like to keep thing easy--we're simple folk. Although some might use the word lazy.

5. Vacations. What's up for this summer? England for two weeks. (Can't wait.) And Hebgen Lake Montana for about three weeks. (I've spent every summer of my life at the Hebgen Lake family cabin. It's a little slice of heaven.)

I have other friends that dread summer. How do you feel about it?

Monday, May 28, 2012


Today I will spend some time remembering.

I will visit the grave of my sister. She passed away two and a half years ago, leaving a void in many, many lives.

She was one of those truly amazing people. A wonderful wife and mother to seven children.

Here are a few things I learned from her:

- Life is too short to be petty. Friendship and kindness are the only way to go.

- It's all about family.

- When you know you're dying, eat what you want.

- Just because it seems like no one is listening does't mean no one is listening. (This I learned from playing 20 Questions.)

- Spend more time worrying about what's on the inside and less time fussing about what's on the outside.

- A mother's love can change lives.

- The red dye in Hot Tamales may cause cancer.

- Angels are real.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

To find out what I believe about life and death, click HERE.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Haiku Contest Voting

We have a WINNER!

Congratulations to Scott Rhoades who wrote #16-The Hobbit.

He is the proud new owner of a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Tied for 2nd place: #4-The Inheritance Cycle by Matt Ratto, #6-Keturah and Lord Death by Michelle Ratto, and #20-Swan Song by T.J. Reed.

Thanks everyone for playing. Remember to keep your skills sharp and be ready for next March's annual Limerick Contest.

We have lots a great Haiku to vote on. 

(Special thanks to the Sharks and Pebbles who once again responded generously to my call for entries.)

Read through the list below and then vote on the three you like best. Winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card email.

Here they are, in the order I received them: 

(I was going to put the titles in, but then I decided not to because it's fun to try and guess, and I don't know them all.)

Thanks for the burnt bread.
If you kiss me you get soup.
I'd like to frost you.

I better win this
last time people were cheaters
I'm the best -Brady

They held Max up high
"Let the wild rumpus begin"
They all roared out loud.

Boy and his dragon
Hot elf and four endless books
Beat Galbatorix

You're in Yellowstone?
Hey, watch your step - watch your back
So much freaking death.

death permeates all
life and love in the village
and forces a choice

My name is Cleaver
My mom is a mortician
Am I the killer?

Run, run in a maze
Find the cure for the world
WICKED always lies

I hear the echoes
From the missing and the dead
And the one who killed

She has the arrow
He has the strength, will and love
Together they win

She smells good to him
He glitters in the sunlight
Victim or girlfriend

She dresses in drapes
Rhett loves her and marries her
She's stuck on Ashley

My best friends are dead
My memories are locked away
Am I the killer?

Rich men want a wife
It's a universal law
Mother's want the match

Fearing boogieman
two finches learn tolerance
among injustice

He's number thirteen
with some dwarves and a wizard
What's in his pocket?

The Nac Mac Feegle,
fightin,' drinkin,' and fightin'
rescue Tiff's brother

Kansas behind her,
silver shoes on her feet, she
seeks Em'rald City

Pup is up in cup,
Eats a snack with Brown and Black.
Pop reads TIMBUKTU.

Young girl, heart of gold
Devil roaming happily
Will the world end?

Hazel and Mac's friends
Throw a big party for Doc
Doesn't go so well

Vampires don't sparkle.
I don't care what you girls say.
They don't. They just don't.

Call me Ishmael.
Wait. I did this book last time.
I'll try another.

Please tick the number of the THREE you like best.

 free polls 
Key: 1-The Hunger Games  2-Original Work  3-Where the Wild Things Are  4-The Inheritance Cycle  5-Death In Yellowstone  6-Keturah and Lord Death  7-I Am Not a Serial Killer  8-The Maze Runner  9-The Body Finder  10-The Hunger Games  11-Twilight  12-Gone with the Wind  13-Original Novel  14-Pride and Prejudice  15-To Kill a Mockingbird  16-The Hobbit  17-?  18-The Wizard of Oz  19-?  20-Swan Song  21-?  22-Twilight  23-Moby Dick

(Scott, help me fill in the blanks!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Haiku Contest

IT'S FINALLY HERE. I know you've all been waiting for this. I wanted to run this contest in April for poetry month, but with the A to Z Challenge, there wasn't time.

The Details:

Write a Haiku about a book, email it to me so I can post it anonymously, come back on Friday and vote on which Haiku you like best. (julie at juliedaines dot com) Do NOT put your Haiku in the comments.

Anyone can enter. It would be nice if you followed me and/or help spread the word, but it's not a requirement.

The Winner:

Receives an electronic Amazon (US, UK, or Canada) $25 gift card. YAY!

Need a Haiku Refresher? (It's been a long time since 5th grade.)

Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry in three lines, the syllables in each line are 5, 7, 5, respectively. I know that there are other forms of Haiku, but for this contest, let's just stick with the basics.


from the long hallways
voices of the people rise
in the morning haze
- Oshima Ryot

Your job is to write one about a book. 


orphaned and alone
she rose to meet her dreams with

That was my 5 minute attempt at Anne of Green Gables. Ok, so I'm not a poet--that's why I write novels. But anyway, you get the picture. Include the title of the book you're Haiku-ing.

Entry deadline is Thursday, May 17th, midnight my time. : )

Voting will run Friday through Sunday, and the winner will be announced on Monday, May 21. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Debriefing

It was an exhausting month in the blogoshpere. The A to Z Challenge was just that, a challenge. But I have to admit, I loved it. 

The best part was visiting other blogs. I was stunned at the variety and quality of many of the blogs I visited. I saw themes that ranged from Gerbils to Physics to Castles of England to Characters from My Book. And all of them so interesting. Well done all you A to Zers. 

I guess there were nearly 2,000 participants, and I only managed to visit at most 175 different blogs. But of the ones I looked at, the following made my list of favorites.

Best of A to Z 2012:

Hanging on to Wonder, Jaye Robin Brown. Her theme centered around her recent years living in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Each of her posts was beautifully written and seemed to transport me to a calmer and more peaceful way of living. 

Mainely Write, Donna Smith. Each of her posts featured: 1-a self-created word art in the shape of something starting with that day's letter, 2-the word art was created using a FONT that started with the letter, 3-an original poem in a form of poetry that started with the letter! It was amazing!

Rainforest Writing, D.G. Hudsen. Her theme was a shout-out to Paris. She featured historical places, art, and prominent people. It was fascinating and lovely to read.

I wish I could have visited more! Thanks A to Z hosts!

DON'T MISS! On Monday, May 14, I will launch a contest on my blog. Anyone can enter. The prize: Amazon $$. The challenge: Haiku!

Come back and check it out! (This contest will be similar to the March Limerick Contest.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Protected by Cindy M. Hogan

I'm pleased to host author Cindy Hogan's latest release as part of her blog tour.

Protected is book two in the "Watched" series.

Paperback, 350 pages
Published March 24th 2012 by O'neal Publishing

She has the guy. The terrorists have been taken care of and she's got a shot at being popular. Until they find her. Now she must run and leave behind everything she knows, including herself.

Change. She longs for it. A murder. She will never be the same.

It takes more than a trip to Washington, D.C. to change Christy's life. It takes murder. A witness to the brutal slaying of a senator's aide, Christy finds herself watched not only by the killers and the FBI, but also by two hot boy. She discovers that if she can't help the FBI, who want to protect her, it will cost her and her new friends their lives.

This book was fast-paced, suspenseful, and the writing style smooth and easy to read. It's always nice to find a worthwhile novel for young adults that is clean and easy to enjoy. Thanks Cindy!

Paperback348 pages
Published April 28th 2011 by Createspace

It takes more than a school trip to Washington, D.C. to change fifteen-year-old Christy's life. It takes murder.

A witness to the brutal slaying of a Senator's aide, Christy finds herself watched not only by the killers and the FBI, but also by two hot boys.

She discovers that if she can't help the FBI, who want to protect her, it will cost her and her new friends their lives.

Cindy M. Hogan graduated with a secondary education teaching degree and enjoys spending time with unpredictable teenagers. More than anything she loves the time she has with her own teenage daughters and wishes she could freeze them at this fun age. If she's not reading or writing, you'll find her snuggled up with the love of her life watching a great movie or planning their next party. She loves to bake, garden and be outdoors doing a myriad of activities.

To see Protected's previous blog hop review, click here.