Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's Your Color IQ?

Thank you, Bish, for the Sunshine Award! I can't wait until my garden has color like this again...

Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix, posted this Color IQ test on facebook. The closer to zero you score, the better your color acuity. I scored 11. What's your score? Good luck!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Silver and Gold

"Make new friends,
But keep the old,
Some are silver and the other gold."

That song is so true. I count myself lucky and blessed to have golden friends that I have kept through the years. Most have moved away, but when we get together, it's as if no time has passed at all. After a "how good to see you again" and a few big hugs, we start in right where we left off. Our kids are a lot bigger, and our conversation topics have changed, but the camaraderie is still strong.

I met with two of my favorite gentlemen in the world this weekend -Mitchell & Greg. We used to sing together, but Mitch moved to the west coast and Greg moved to northeastern Ohio. The distance was too big to keep the group together. Friday we had the opportunity to sing again. It'd been 12 years since we'd done so, but once we worked out a few kinks, it was like old times. It's hard to describe the feeling I get when I sing with them. They truly understand how words, dynamics, rhythm and harmony come together to communicate a message. We've sung together for so long, it's like we think together. Mitchell has moved back to Ohio. Here's hoping it won't be another 12 years before we sing again.

Social networking has made it so much easier to keep up with friends and family. My cousins (literally by the dozens) and I keep up through a Yahoo group and also facebook. It's made a huge difference for me in keeping up with friends and family. I HATE writing letters. Strange, I know, since I do love to write. I just don't care to do it with a pencil.

I've one high school buddy, Michelle, who I've kept up with over the years. She used to drive us to school or to the mall. I've got a fun tin -type picture of the two of us from one of those visits. We're dressed in period dresses with stern looks on our faces. I'm not sure where the picture is. If I find it, I'll post it. We stayed friends through college, and I sang at her wedding. She lives clear out in San Diego, but we still get together once a year for dinner. I always look forward to her visit. This is a picture of us from the last time she visited. That's me on the left, my daughter, and Michelle on the right.

The goofiest friendship I've ever had was with Lora. She was my college buddy. We were both coloratura sopranos in the music department. We both sang the same part and auditioned for all of the same solos and theater roles. We should have been mortal enemies, but instead, we became each other's biggest supporter. We had fun in the weirdest ways. Her apartment building was old and had fabulous hardwood floors and beautifully carved woodwork. It also had amazing acoustics. We would sit across from each other in her dining room and sing in 3rds up the octave as high and loud as we could. The result was funky harmonics that rang in our ears and fits of laughter that followed. I'm sure the neighbors hated us.

Okay, I'm done with Nostalgia Lane. Do you still keep up with your friends?

Friday, February 19, 2010

E-book Caper -- Front Street and namelos

Kent Brown, Executive Director of the Highlights Foundation, sent out this email offering free e-book downloads until April 1st. The message is as follows:

I normally trash any e-mail that includes the word free in it. And I often ignore any that mentions e-book, as I'm not up to date on that technology. But I concocted this experiment and egged on my friend Stephen Roxburgh, who is an early adopter of e-books and things high tech. I got used to seeing him in a rocking chair engrossed in his Kindle. Stephen has been a student of the book in whatever format most of his life and is articulate on the importance and magic of story, independent of platform.

Front Street, founded by Stephen and now part of Boyds Mills Press, has among its recent publications four great novels, which we selected for this experiment. They are characterized by the gentle hand of Stephen Roxburgh and the skills of colleagues he trained and inspired.

The novels are ACCORDING TO KIT by Eugenie Doyle (2ce4), CITY OF CANNIBALS by Ricki Thompson (d35f), THE DOG IN THE WOOD by Monika Schröder (3bd5), and WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE by Nancy Bo Flood (2ac4).

To get your free electronic copies, go to and locate the book by title or author by browsing or use the "search" option. When you get to the book page, enter the unique code provided for each book (shown in parentheses above) in the box in the lower-left corner of the page (under the list of prices) and click "submit." You will be asked to provide your name and e-mail address and to select the file format you want. You will receive an e-mail with a link that will download the file you selected to your hard drive, from where you can transfer it to your preferred reading device.

The code will allow you to download one file format per title. If you need a file format that is not provided, write directly to Stephen ( and he'll provide it.

Frankly, it's an increasing challenge to get attention for novels, particularly first novels.

So, in cooperation with Stephen Roxburgh and his new venture, namelos llc, we are offering for a limited time downloads of the four novels. From now until April Fools' Day, you can put these on your e-reading device without charge. And since we are doing this to get the word out, we would be very happy if you shared the opportunity with your friends.

We want everyone to know about these books.

Boyds Mills Press has the hardback editions in stock, and they are available through all the places you buy books. Namelos llc will be selling the e-book versions of these titles in April and beyond. Almost all other Front Street novels are available now for purchase to download at

If you take advantage of this special offer, you can expect namelos to keep you up to date on the books they are offering in e-book format. If that's not to your liking, you will have a chance to opt out.

I cannot answer your technical questions—Stephen can do that—but I'd be happy to hear about your experience with this experiment.

Kent Brown, Executive Director, Highlights Foundation, Inc.
Former Publisher, Boyds Mills Press

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February Critique Giveaway

Hey All,
Marsha Hoehne, an Institute of Children's Literature instructor, is having a February Critique Giveaway. She will critique the first 1000 words of two manuscripts -children's magazine story, chapter book, mid-grade novel, or YA novel. Visit her blog for the details!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Goofin' Around...

I'm goofin' around with my blog design. Please let me know if it gets obnoxious or too hard to read. This one is my daughter's favorite. It works thematically. Mine was a little more subtle...

Update - daughter loves it. Hubbie says it's too busy. Since you are the ones who read it, what are your thoughts? Be honest. I've got a tough skin!

Monday, February 15, 2010

New WIP, Haircicles, and Snow Forts

I've started writing a new novel, and I'm having a blast! This one is YA fantasy. I have a rough outline of the plot and sketches of the major characters. They are quite fun. I have so much trouble to send their way... I have three chapters written so far at 5600 words. The fourth chapter is where the subplots diverge, so I've spent time today mulling things over a bit.

My favorite part of a new novel is the brainstorming. I tend to go over the top when I'm throwing down ideas. Eventually I'll have to rein it all in to make it believable. But for now, if you hear a wild cackle come through your monitor, it's probably me. I've spent today "upping the stakes." Not just for my MC, but for all my characters. It makes a huge difference when I write if I know before hand the "what's in it for me" of everyone involved.

I just got the phone call telling me I have another snow day tomorrow, so I'll have a big block of time to write. Woot!

While I'm glad for the time off, I'm quite tired of snow. We got another 9 inches today. We're expecting another 2 inches by midnight, and another 2-3 inches through the day tomorrow. Today I waited until we had about 7 inches before I decided to shovel the driveway. I had finished the front deck and half the drive when my wonderful neighbor came down my sidewalk with his snowblower. He cleared my walk and my driveway too. When he finished, he shut off the snowblower and said, "I noticed you were icing up." I put my hand in my hair, and he was right! I had icicles all through my hair and didn't know it.

Although I'm feeling weather weary, my daughter is loving it. This evening she dug out an igloo fort in the snow piles around the front deck and the driveway. She made a tunnel that goes all the way through the drift and out the other side. Robb stood by, ready to yank her out by her feet if the ceiling collapsed. What a good dad!

I'll leave you with a few more snow pictures. The quality isn't great. I'm not camera savvy, and somehow the settings have changed. I'm going to have to pull out the manual. Stay warm! Keep writing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There's a War in my Basement

There's a war in my basement.

I didn't know it, but it's true. I have four, 12-year-old girls spending the night. They have been non-stop gigglers and outright belly laughers for hours. But in the last hour it suddenly got quiet. My mom radar turned on in a flash. I listened, and listened harder. I was beginning to believe that maybe they had decided to watch a movie or partake in some other civilized endeavor. I was wrong.

The screams, thumps and crashes started without warning. I flew down the stairs to see who was grievously injured - or worse. I was greeted by this:

That would be "The South." This is "The North."

The blur of pink is one of my daughter's friends dodging an "incoming." I must say that I think the North has much better defenses. The South is definitely louder.

I just heard the word "CAKE!" so I think that a cease fire has been called. Time to go feed the troops.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Fun, Frustration, and Smiles

We had another snow day today. It's a good thing, because I stayed up into the wee hours of the night reading GRACELING (BTW, excellent read!). I wouldn't have been at my best, I think, if I'd had to get up early and teach...

My daughter (in the green and white) is loving the snow. Here's how she's spending her snow days.

We now have 13 measurable inches in the back yard. I think we're done with the snow for now, at least until Sunday. That means I go back to school tomorrow -just in time for Valentine's parties. We have a scheduled 4-day weekend due to conferences and President's Day. I'm sure tomorrow will be very productive...

My son and I shoveled the driveway again today. We had just finished when my neighbor's daughter tried to back out of her driveway. She got stuck in the ice at the end of the drive with the back half of the van in the road and the front half in the drive. As she struggled to get unstuck, a village snowplow came around the corner, passed my house (filling the driveway again), and stopped before her drive. He was waiting for her to move. He waited, and waited, and waited some more. I kept thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice if he helped." A shovelful of salt behind the wheels of her van would give her a little traction, and off she could go. But no, he got tired of waiting and plowed her into an even more difficult situation. It took five of us to dig her out and get her on the road. In the meantime, the plow comes back around to do the other side of the road, and once again leaves a long swath of deep snow in the MIDDLE of the road. What an idiot! I'm still not sure how he did it. We finally got her unstuck. She went on her way with a grateful thanks, and I went back to my driveway to shovel myself out -again.

My mother has a talent for making me smile. She sent me something cheerful today, and I'd like to share it with you. Be sure to click on the black screen. You might even hold down the mouse and pull it across the screen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow, More Snow, Writing, and a Good Read

It's snowing here in southwest Ohio. Lots. We don't have as much snow as they do farther north and east, but it's enough. This is what is looks like right now from my back deck, and it's supposed to keep snowing for the next 24 hours.

I'm very tired of gray and snow. This is what I'm looking forward to. It's a nice reminder that the world does have color!

Everything has shut down in Cincinnati and the surrounding communities -which means my kids and I have a snow day! The four best things about snow days?
1. No school for me (says the teacher!)

2. My house gets a deep clean -I love it when my house is picked up, cleaned and things are where they're supposed to be. Not an easy feat with teenagers in the house. It relaxes me, and I find I can enjoy a good book or write without guilt. If there are chores left undone, they inevitably find their way into my thoughts when I'm trying to write. It's best to get them done first.

3. I have lots of time to write, blog and read -I've started writing a new novel, and it's so much fun! I love it when the ideas start flowing and the story is fresh and new. I've written a rough summary and started my setting and character sketches. Last night I finished chapter 2. Today I tackle chapter 3. I'm aiming for 700 - 1000 words on the days I teach, and 1000+ on the days I don't work. I'd like to have the first draft finished by the end of spring break. That would give me all of May and through the summer to revise and get ready for submissions. At least, that's the plan...

4. I can scrap everything and READ! I've had GRACELING, by Kristen Cashore, posted as my current read for a quite a while, but I didn't get an opportunity to start it until this past Sunday. I love it! I've got several hours set aside this evening specifically for GRACELING.

I've a turkey in the oven and a to-do list to tackle. After that, uninterrupted writing time. WOOT!