Sunday, December 11, 2011

Because It Is A Need

Carolina Valdez Miller, writer and contributor to the Bookanistas Blog, has an upcoming adventure that I feel is worth sharing. In January, she's volunteering to serve as part of Mission Haiti Medical, a work camp lasting 7-10 days. Three to five days are devoted to mobile clinics, in which the team travels to a rural area to provide a one-day clinic. Carolina says she'll be working with an orphanage in a remote village that might not otherwise ever receive medical care. You can learn more about her trip here: Carolina Valdez Miller: A NEED.

Mission work is hard work. And expensive. The team is allowed to bring as much over-the-counter medicine as they can carry. They must also pay for their required immunizations, plane tickets, the cost of their accommodations, and the little things we take for granted - like a piece of candy or small toy for a child.

Will you help? Carolina says no donation is too small. To prevent scams, she only accepts Paypal donations from her blog or Facebook for her medical mission. You can find her Palpal account on her blog through the link above.

I hope that you will consider donating. I know I am.

Good luck, Carolina!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me...

My manuscript and I aren't speaking.

It's a shame, because we have such a good thing going. It's a problem, because we've made a commitment to a complete draft in October. I don't know if we'll make it.

It all started with a hard drive crash. And now that I'm working full time, we don't see each other as often as I like -which is pretty much every night. I carry it over my heart in a travel drive, sneaking in moments here and there when opportunities arise. But it's awkward. In the moments we do have together, words pour onto the page for nearly thirty seconds, and then we stare at each other. In silence. Nothing to say at all.

I don't know if I can salvage the relationship. I hope I can, but it takes time, attention, and energy.  I don't seem to have much of any those things these days. Still, I have to set my priorities. I WANT to make it work -to rekindle the word love.

Maybe I can plan time for a date...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lazy Summers and August Beginnings

The end of July is nearly here, and that means it's time to start preparing my classroom. For me, going back to work in August is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my summer break, but I never seem to accomplish much. I have grand plans to spend all morning or afternoon writing, knocking off one chapter after another, but I end up daydreaming at my computer instead. Or reading lots of novels. I've read thirteen so far this summer -- eight of them sitting in a beach chair with my toes in the surf. Ahhh!

That changes once school starts. My days are very, very busy, but oh so productive. I think I need the structure. I know my writing time is drastically reduced, but the quality and quantity is better. So bring on August! I've got things to get done.

I'll leave you with some pictures from our trip to Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia. Beautiful area!
This was the view from our condo.

These would pass by occasionally as they headed into the Savannah River and on to port. They were huge!

This is the public beach by the pier on Tybee Island. There was a huge storm the night before, and the surf was up.

My daughter, Taylor, is in Captain Mike's boat waiting for the dolphin tour to start. Great tour! We saw lots of dolphins, and the 1st Mate shared lots of local history as well.

Blogger is acting up, so I'll share more pictures soon.  Keep writing!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

RIPPLE, by Mandy Hubbard

It's pub day for RIPPLE, a paranormal romance for teens by author/ agent @MandyHubbard! Win a critique! #Ripple

I read Prada and Prejudice by Mandy and loved it! RIPPLE is definitely on my short list. 

I'll have a longer blog post soon. Promise!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

10 Things I've Learned So Far on Vacation...

1) Tennessee has lots of churches. In 90 minutes, we passed 1 Church of God, 1 Methodist church, 1 Lutheran, and 49 Baptist churches. All were along country roads. 

2) Eight lanes of bumper to bumper traffic and a sea of break lights on I-75 on a Friday evening rush hour through Atlanta is no where near as scary as I-75 through Cincinnati on any given day or time.

3) Sunny days and an ocean side condo with the beach right outside your window are not helpful when you are supposed to be writing.

4) Sunny days and an ocean side condo with the beach right outside your window is perfect for reading novels. Lots and lots of novels.

5) Always book the top floor of the condo. That way your upstairs neighbor who smokes and doesn’t use an ashtray won’t coat your deck with their cigarette ashes. Daily.

6) Dolphins are great fun to watch when the tide comes in.

7) Teenage daughters should always bring a friend on vacation.

8) Every meal in Georgia should include a Lipitor chaser.

9) The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a wonderful place to visit, but very, very crowded. We were packed in like sardines…

10) I love the coast. I may have to retire ocean side!  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Thoughts

It's been an interesting summer. I've only been out of school for two weeks, but it seems much longer. I'm rested, and that's always the summer goal. I'm excited about teaching 3rd grade next year. Change is good, and I'll be working with a wonderful principal and staff. It's been twelve years since I've taught in a regular classroom. I took some time off when my daughter was little, and the last eight years I've taught gifted education.

Poison ivy has been a big part of my summer. Not just your ordinary case, but the kind that makes your mother gasp, strangers stare, your father get teary, your husband say 'ew', and your doctor quietly suggest you give up gardening (not happening!). There are parts of me that look and feel like I'm a burn victim. It's finally starting to get better. Hopefully I'll come out of the ordeal without too many scars.

I seriously considered giving up the garden. My dad even offered to bring his rototiller and put the whole thing to rest. But the thought of all that work being plowed under seems like such a waste. So I'll wear rubber shoes and gloves, long pants and long sleeves, and a healthy application of ivy guard when I head outside.

My daylilies are blooming now.

They are so cheery! Why would I want to rip out these beds?

My other task this summer is to work on a new manuscript. I'm about nine chapters in and up to my neck with this challenge. It's my Heart of the Novel workshop project, and I'm supposed to have a complete first draft soon. That deadline is coming fast! It's raining today, like it seems to be doing a lot lately. I plan to open the garage doors and park myself where I can enjoy the weather while I write. Maybe I can conquer chapter nine!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Thanks to Rena for sharing this on facebook. LOVE IT!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nerdiness and Research

I love researching for a new novel. Does that make me a nerd? I spend hours on the internet looking for details and tidbits that might help the story come alive for the reader. I search newspapers and libraries, and if a location is within a reasonable distance, I take a field trip. Those are the best!

I took such a trip this week. I'm on spring break, so I left children, husband and pets at home and hit the road. My destination was the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, Tennessee. The drive there was beautiful. Once you cross the Ohio River into Kentucky the landscape is so pretty. I love the rolling hills as you pass by the cattle and horse farms. The mountain views farther south are spectacular. The only part of the drive I didn't like was over the top of Jellico Mountain in the dark. It was WINDY! I dodged tractor trailors with every gust.

When I start a novel, I keep a research binder that includes a tab for images. Here are some of the images I collected on my trip:

Peacocks and peahens were everywhere on the museum grounds. This pretty girl was out in the open, but most of them were hidden under bushes or in flower beds. Sometimes it surprised me when I'd unexpectedly spot one right by my foot. It was somewhat like an Easter egg hunt, but with colorful birds instead.

How many peacocks do you see?

Nothing was wasted. This is a mule shoe chair. The sculptures were made from used matchsticks.

My Papaw had a collection of hats very similar to these. He'd be 107 years old in 2011...

Papaw also had a pump organ in one of the upstairs bedrooms. It took two of us to play it -one to pump the foot pedals and one to tickle the (real) ivory.

This made me giggle...

I think I have to include this in a story! Also, I love the name of the quilter...

There were only about five other people at the museum while I was there. There are indoor exhibits as well as outdoor. I met this gentleman in the last cabin I visited. He was singing "I'll Fly Away."  There was no one else around, so I joined in and sang harmony. When we finished, he grinned and said, "That was fun. Would you like to do another?" We ended up singing a few more before I had to go. He was right. It was fun!

The museum grounds were beautiful.

I highly recommend a trip to the Museum of Appalachia!

On my way back home, I decided to take a side trip through Cumberland Gap. I wish that I'd stopped and taken more pictures along the way, but I had to get back to Cincinnati on a deadline. I did take a few pictures from the pinnacle of Cumberland Gap. Just so you know, it was really cold up there!

Keep Writing!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts on Beginnings

It's always daunting beginning a new project. When I finally sit down with all of my research, character studies, images, and plot outlines it often overwhelms me. Who's story is it? Will it work best with one point of view? Two? Should I tell it in 1st person? 3rd person? What are the stakes? How can I raise them? How far can I take it. Is that far enough?

And then there's my worst enemy -my inner editor, who from the very first word on the page begins to criticize direction, question word choice and order. My inner editor is such a pain, that I've been known to throw a pillow case over the monitor just to shut him up. Yes. I've done that.

I almost always think I'm going to write a story in 1st person point of view. I'll write 10-15 chapters that way, and then I begin to feel restricted. I start all over again in 3rd person, but now I know my character. I can work the immediacy of 1st person thoughts into my 3rd person POV, and still have the flexibility that 3rd offers. Maybe someday I'll get a whole story down in 1st person and make it work. Maybe it'll be my current WIP. We'll see.

I tend to want perfection from the start. I forget that sometimes it's best to sit back and let the story come. This time I'm going to tell it all the first time, even those parts that won't make the final cut. Give myself permission to ramble. Edit later.  *Puts a reminder post-it on the monitor* Yes, edit later...

I'll leave you with two articles I read this week that I thought worth sharing. They're basic, but sometimes it's good to be reminded of things you know but need to hear again. At least I do.

Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice, by Holly Lisle
Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing, by Julie Wildhaber

Keep writing,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tribute to a Master: Brian Jacques

We lost a wonderful, imaginative author this week. On February 5th, Brian Jacques passed away at age 71, from a heart attack. He was a British author who was best known for his fantasy series, Redwall.

I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Jacques speak a few years ago at Northern Kentucky University. The auditorium was filled with a couple-hundred 10-14 year old boys and their parents, a few girls scattered here and there, and me.

The first thing he did was to school us in the correct pronunciation of his name (Jakes -with a long a). We listened to him talk about his life -which was quite an interesting adventure. His first story was written at age 10. When Mr. Jacques told us it was about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth, his young audience laughed. They didn't think it so funny anymore when they learned Mr. Jacques' teacher called him a liar and caned him. His story was very good, and she didn't believe he wrote it. The punishment was given because he wouldn't admit that he copied it.

He talked briefly of becoming a sea merchant sailor at age 15, but what I remember most about his talk is why he started writing. He delivered milk to a school for the blind, and he began to spend time with the children. He starting writing stories for them, and because they were blind, he added lots of descriptive details.

I owe Brian Jacques a big thank you. I'm a teacher, and over the years I've had many boys who were reluctant readers. When they would come to me and say there wasn't anything interesting to read, I'd introduce them to Redwall. Inevitably, they would devour every book in the series I had on my shelves and ask for more.

Brian Jacques will certainly be missed. Rest in peace.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chautauqua Scholarship Deadline

I received this from Jo Lloyd at the Highlights Foundation. I highly recommend the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Writer's Workshop. The faculty is top notch, and my experience was rich and though-provoking. Good luck!

Hi Folks,

I know many of you have already spread the word about the scholarship program for the annual Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. The deadline for having applications in the mail to us is Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. We'd love to see children's writers and illustrators, who need financial assistance in order to spend a week with our more than 25 exceptional faculty, be able to attend this workshop. It takes place July 16-23, 2011, in western New York at the Chautauqua Institution. For an application, and for more information, please contact Jo Lloyd, e-mail:, or phone, toll-free, 877-512-8365.


Jo Lloyd
Program Assistant
Highlights Foundation, 814 Court Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
Phone: (877) 512-8365 (toll-free) or (570) 251-4557
Fax: (570) 253-0179

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Odds & Ends and Fun Writer Posts

Hello All!

It's been some time since I've last seen you. I haven't forgotten you, I've been writing. Lots. And when I'm productive in the writing department, I try to stay away from distractions -because the goal is, after all, to get published!

I did write one post and not share it. I think I got distracted. Which, if you know me, doesn't surprise you one bit.

So here is a Late January Post:

As I pulled into the garage today after school, a skateboard magically flew from its perch on the peg wall, hit the side of the van, and landed under the wheel. I backed over the skateboard and out of the garage. (There was no other way to do this since everything in the garage only fits one way.) Then I put the skateboard back in place. (The van was not wounded). As I walked under the eaves and back to the driver's seat, someone slammed the front door of the house causing much of the snow on the roof to land on my head, in my hood, and down my shirt.

The van is in the garage, and I have decided to spend the rest of the day indoors.

And a Crock Pot Recipe I Thought Sounded Good:
BBQ Sauce - Pork Loin w/ Dr. Pepper & lots of garlic. Skim fat. Let cool. Add tomato paste and spices to taste.

And Some Great Blog Posts!
Just One More Page - A new blog by Dave Richardson. All of you Verlakay people know him as "dave r." Dave is an indie bookbuyer/seller for The Blue Marble Bookstore in Ft. Thomas, KY, and he writes a regular book review column for The International Reading Association's READING TODAY. His posts are informative, fun and funny! 

Jennifer Represents -Nancy Drew and the Case of the Guilty Silence - Have you ever wondered why an agent hasn't responded back to a request for a manuscript? 

Also from Jennifer - When to Keep Your Trap Shut? Almost Always. This has some excellent advice for bloggers and others with an online presence. 

Jules Watson - Historical Fiction Workshop - Have you always wanted to attend a writing workshop, but it's never been in the budget? Jules Watson has posted a complete Historical Fiction Workshop, and it's FREE!

Jill Corcoran - How to Sub Queries & Full Manuscripts in the Digital Age "Subbing your ms to agents has definitely changed. No more do you print out reams of paper and ship them off in a box. Now you query and send full requested manuscript via email. And we agents then forward your email with the requested full manuscript to our e-reader, which for me is a kindle. So here are some important tips to help you sub successfully in the digital age."

Finally, because it made me laugh, and because it's TRUE, a video from Jackson Pearce, author of Sister's Red and As You Wish.

Keep Writing!

Friday, January 14, 2011

What a Week!

It's been a good week. The kind of week that sets you spinning somewhat off kilter -you know, where you have to take a moment to hang on, regain your bearings and catch your breath. In a good way.

Remember my "Just Do It" resolution for this year? This is the week I jumped in head first. I now attend a new writer's group. It's small -just three of us. We all write middle grade and young adult novels. We plan to meet every two to three weeks, and we each get up to 40-45 minutes to share and be critiqued. We can ask for whatever we need - brainstorming, plotting, line edits, constructive criticism, etc.  It will be a nice complement to my other writer's group. Between the two, I'll have three meetings a month. That will require me to write on a deadline. I'll need the practice and the accountability because....

I got accepted to Patti Lee Gauch's HEART OF THE NOVEL workshop in Honesdale!

I'm just a little excited about it. *Can't wipe grin off face*  The workshop is divided into two sessions. The first meets for four days in May. We'll look at what makes a novel come alive, then we'll begin a novel, making certain it has the right characters, an original idea, and a solid story line. We'll set writing goals before we leave in May for Part II, which meets in October. I can't wait to get there! In the meantime, I'm plotting, creating character sketches, and researching, researching, researching.

It's a bit scary to me to commit to writing a complete draft in five months. I've not had to write to a deadline - not like this anyway. But I figure if I can do this, I can handle an editor's deadlines someday. Right? Here's hoping!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Good Reads and Happy New Year!

It is once again time for my yearly reading post. I didn't read as many this year as I would have liked, but I liked what I read. I've placed an asterisk next to my very favorites (which tend to be fantasy), but if they are on the list I enjoyed the book.

There was a recent buzz on Facebook about The BBC Book List. Here is an interesting Post about the Facebook book list verses the original BBC list that was compiled in 2003. They are a bit different, as you will see. I was a little discouraged to find I'd only read 20 on the Facebook list, so this year one of my reading goals is to tackle the classics. I got a Kindle for Christmas *giggles with glee*. There are quite a few free downloads in the Classics choices. My first read will be EMMA, by Jane Austen. As for hard copies, I've a stack of ARCs hip deep that's been taunting me for a while. I have plenty of books to keep me occupied.

So here it is...

Books I've Read In 2010 List
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold*
Starcrossed, Elizabeth C. Bunce*
The Hobbit, J.T. Tolkien*
The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan
The Exiled Queen, Cinda Chima*
Illegally Blonde, Nelsa Roberto
Claire de lune, Christine Johnson
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins*
The Hero's Trail, T.A. Barron
Spells, Aprilynne Pike*
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Stephanie Meyer
Beast, Donna Jo Napoli*
His Excellency, George Washington, Joseph J. Ellis
The Smile, Donna Jo Napoli*
Sisters Red, Jackson Pearce
Harmonic Feedback, Tara Kelly*
Prada & Prejudice, Mandy Hubbard*
Radiant Shadows, Melissa Marr
Stories From the Nerd Herd, Edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Eighth Grade Bites, Heather Brewer
The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, Donald Mass*
Another Faust, Daniel & Dina Nayeri
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, Cindy Pon*
Graceling, Kristen Cashore*
Wings, Aprilynne Pike*
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850, Bartoletti

Books I've Read in 2009
Books I've Read in 2008

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!