Thursday, December 29, 2011

Live Blogging/Writing Day

I am about three fourths of the way done with a writing project and I just really need to kick it in gear and get a first draft of it finished before I go back to teaching on the 9th.  So, today I am going to do a series of timed writings to see how much I can crank out.

So far progress has been unsteady, with days of lots of words and days with VERY few.  I attribute that to the holidays, naturally.  But no more excuses!

So, I am starting my first chunk right now.  Wish me luck!

Okay, I just finished my first 1/2 hour timed writing.

word count:  466. 

 Not bad, but I can feel that I am stalling.  And I can't figure out why.  If I need for something kind of bad to happen to MC, then I just need to let it happen!!

Last line: 

True, I did not want to go wherever they were taking me alone, but one does not live as a princess for as long as I have without learning even a little about bravery and how important it is to have courage at all times, or at least appear that you do.

Going to have a little run and work some things out in my head.  Back in a bit!

9:55 The run was evil.  I went twice as far as usual just to avoid coming back and getting myself out of the fine mess I've gotten myself into!  Why did I think the public humiliation of not getting the writing done would spur me on to finish this book?  Why?  Why?

I will tell you why.  

Because it is strangely effective.

So, at 10:00 I am going to try for another 1/2 hour, then maybe have a little breakfast.  Something with a poached egg, I think.  I had something at a fancy schmancy restaurant the other night which was a chanterelle mushroom tarte with goat cheese, frisee and a slow poached egg.  I have been dreaming about that egg.

Okay, I am off to the tower prison.  (Feeling a little cliche...perhaps all will not be what it seems.)


Word count: 701 (which makes for a total of  1156 so far!  Which pleases me to no end!)

Got out of the tower, thank goodness.  Not a big fan of towers, really, except the one I saw a Blarney Castle which wasn't dark and dreary at all.

So, off to eat a little breakfast and perhaps do some laundry (ugh...but the clothes must be cleaned!)

Last line:

    It could not have come at a less opportune time, but I felt the itch in my fingers to paint. 

Had to run and get cold medicine for sick people...poor things.  And I've for a dr.'s appt. myself here in a bit, so I am going to try and squeeze in 1k in 1 hour starting in 11 minutes.  It's nice because once the words start flowing, it is easier to pick up where you left off and keep going.  (And I bought myself a little present when I was out medicine moleskines!!)

Yes.  I should have a sign above my desk:  Will Write For Rewards.
Well, I'm off to hit the pages!


word count: 742 (but a neighbor stopped by and we had to show them how to play Fruit Ninja on the Kinect)

So, off to the doctor now, more later.

Oops!  Forgot the last line: We spun and spun and for a moment, I let myself believe that this would, indeed, be far better than returning.
 4:40 Back from dr. with a nasty case of asthmatic bronchitis.  Lovely.  But at least I have a fresh inhaler to get me through.  It is quiet in the house now, so I am thinking of doing another one-half hour, but I am almost positive there will be an interruption.  Such is the day.  And soon I am going to a friend's house for little holiday get-together (to which I am bringing the famous Thomas cheese ball) but then I hope to have most of the evening for writing.

8:58 p.m.

So that rest of the evening for writing thing SO did not happen.  But holidays are for friends and gatherings, thus sometimes I have to go counter to my hermit tendencies and get out a bit.

However, I did manage 169 more words, bringing the total for the day to 2067 words!  (Honestly, not a much as I had hoped, but I am always grateful for whatever progress I make.  Writing is not a race to be won, but a life to be lived.)

last line: “What are you doin’, you foolish lad?”


And thanks for the twitter encouragement, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Favorite Things of Christmas

1. I love that the new green for Christmas is Grinch green.  When I was young, a deep evergreen shade of green was the Christmas green.  But I just love the way Grinch green works with red.
Love his saucy little expression!

2.  Love that I am finally on break--and still standing, even after taking nine twelve year-old girls, (who decided to speak in loud, shrill, British accents for the evening), ice skating last night.

3.  Love that I STILL cry when everyone is singing towards the end of ELF.  (Seen it a billion times, still gets me!)

4.  Love this:
I shouldn't love this so much...but I do.

4.  Love my simplified menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:

Christmas Eve:

Tortilla Soup
The red and green makes it so festive! (And it's easy)
It will be nice just to have a pot of something on the stove for anyone who pops by.

Shortbread Cookies (made by Noel...thank goodness for college-aged daughters!)

And that's it...going simple this year.

Christmas Day:

I scored big this time...Sean said he'd make BBQ!!  He hasn't done this at Christmas for almost 10 years.  So excited!!

So there will be ribs...

And Southern style green beans with the heck cooked out of them.

Cooked so long the beans inside fall out.  And I like the pink-red of the ham and the green of the bean together.  (But I might use bacon....)

Potatoes (not sure what kind yet...maybe scalloped or au gratin)

And trifle

Ours won't be quite as pretty, but just as yummy!

6.  I love that my shopping is done and the wrapping is ALMOST done.  (Not loving the wrapping.)

7.  I love writing time...uninterrupted  writing time.

Happy Christmas to you!



Monday, December 19, 2011

Of Budgets and Blossoms

There were a lot of things I felt like blogging about today, like how insane it is that teachers in my district are teaching up through the 22nd!  Of December!  Yes.  True.  Or the fact that my muse is being quite naughty and distractable, finding things to be interested in other that the work at hand.  Or the wonderful book-presents that I bought myself.  Or the ridiculously ugly Christmas cards that are left in stores (sorry, had to buy more today....ewww.) Or how my husband got me an early Christmas present of a housecleaning service and somehow, during the dusting, the Lego Millennium Falcon went DOWN.  (sob.) Or the easy holiday menus I am thinking up for this year since there will be only a teensy about of prep time this year (see TEACHING THROUGH 22ND!)

But I am not going to blog about any of those things today.  Soon, perhaps, but not today.

Today it's time for a little story.

Once not too awfully long ago, there was a school that was able to do big things.  Amazingly big things, like putting on epic performances with spectacular, sparkly costumes and huge audiences.  Everyone would watch these shows and say "ooh" and "aah". The coolest of the newest technologies abounded, and everything was just so, so shiny.  For though the school itself was not wealthy, it did not want for much.

Then hard times hit.  Gone were the big budgets and the big shows.  Gone where those things that glittered in the light and made folks say, "ooh" and "aah." Gone (or broken) were the newest of the new gadgets. They were replaced by little things.  Tiny things.  Things people might not even notice unless they looked very closely.

But somehow, the smallness of these new things was no less wonderful than the largeness before, as long as you knew what to look for.

Is a rosebud any less magical than the sun just because it is smaller?


I guess what I am trying to say is that today I watched some kids play the most incredible game with the rattiest-looking-tennis-ball-in-the-world and their baseball caps and it was just so beautiful.  They didn't have new, great stuff, but they had fun.

Today I listened to kids sing, not in fancy costumes on a big stage, but in the classroom I passed on my way to kick the temperamental copy machine, and their little, golden voices touched my heart.

I did not end up kicking said machine.

I probably don't need to harp on this, but my wish for you this holiday season is to be open to the smallness of things.

Bigger doesn't mean better.  It just means bigger.  That's all.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dangers of Being Awesome

My daughter recently completed her first year of soccer.  Her team was Awesome (yes, with a capital A).  I mean, these girls were incredible players.  Incredible.  Many had been on a "competitive" team before but it was no longer "fun" so they switched to a" recreational" team.  But these girls....truly I don't have the words for them. Wait, maybe I do.  Velociraptor comes to mind.  (Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where the  raptors are using their superior psychic, mind-reading abilities to hunt like a pack?  Well, that is what is was like to watch this team play.)

They were deadly to opponents. A girl would kick the ball and another girl would be there and BAM!  GOAL!  These girls scored off of corner kicks and headers and backward bicycle kicks. They were made of win.

The coach (who I will call St. Coach because he was the most chilled-out, gentle coach in the WORLD, would often say to the girls in hushed tones so as not to be overheard, but I have super-sonic hearing) "Ladies, don't score this half.  Just play Keep Away."

They had an undefeated season.

Then they went into a post-season tournament.

They were so used to being Awesome, and so afraid NOT to be Awesome anymore, that they started playing scared.

You can't play scared if you are going to win.

They were playing it far too safe.

You can't play it safe if you are going to  win.

Luckily, St. Coach said something to the girls (that even my superior hearing could not make out) and things turned around for them. Four games later, they were tournament champions, still undefeated.

But the fear of not living up to your previous success is a very real one.  I think it hits writers very hard.  "What if what I am writing today is not as good as what I wrote yesterday?"  or "This story will never be as good as my last one."

We can't let being awesome do this to our creativity.  For the power of creativity lies in the creation not the product.

Do not fear the Awesome.  But don't let it mess you up, either.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Dear Carlos

Dear Carlos,

I just wanted you to know how much you warmed my heart the other night.  When you picked up my book and held it against your chest, your small arms barely able to encompass it, and steadfastly refused to let you parents buy you ANY other book in the store, well, I got a little teary.

You see, Carlos, above getting published and seeing your book in a store and all that, the real moment an author longs for is when a child picks up her book and won't let go.  Oh, I watched you walk so proudly when you parents finally caved* and let me sign one for you, like you were a little soldier of literacy, marching off to battle.

But Carlos, I am a little worried for you.  Soon, there will be fewer and fewer choices when you go to buy a book.  More books stores are closing and even though you can buy a book on-line, it's not the same as walking out of a store with a brand-new book, one you picked out for yourself.

You are probably like me, Carlos.  I mean, sometimes I read the blurb on-line when I go to the bookstore, I am convinced that I am going to buy a particular book...but then I get there and the book doesn't live up to what I thought it would be and meanwhile, I have fallen completely in love with another book.  I am the kind of reader that has to read the first couple of pages to know if it is right for me.  (I watched you do the same thing as you made your decision--thumbing through several books before choosing A Good Knight's Rest).

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I will never forget that look on your face.  Ever.

Thank you, Carlos.


*Okay, so his parents weren't against the book, per se, but I think they were hoping for a cheaper option. I think.  If they hadn't bought it for him, I would have done it myself!  Oh, that smile!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Loose Ends and Book Signings

First of all, I am a little behind with my announcement of the winner of A GOOD KNIGHT'S REST.  The book goes to the lovely Lydia Kang!

Email me your address and I'll get it out to you soon, Lydia.

Next, tomorrow I am doing a performance/booksigning at the Barnes and Noble in Oceanside.

Yeah, I know.  I should call it an "appearance" not a performance.  But actually, with my puppets and all, it is more of a show than  a "talk."

And that's fine with me.  I love my little puppet friends.

But seriously, every booksigning is a bit nerve wracking.  I mean, there is there fear that you will be standing there all alone, the fear that you will forget something vitally important that will ruin everything, the fear that people will heckle you.  (, I don't usually get hecklers, except for the occasional toddler...but any toddler worth his/her salt will heckle ANYONE if the situation is right and the child is cranky.)

And shhhhhh...I really shouldn't tell anyone, but I think there is a FLASH MOB happening sometime during the event.

The truth.

A flash mob!!! I am so excited.  Naturally, I won't actually BE in the FM...(those little kids probably think I would ruin it with my bad dancing--and they aren't that far off the mark.) But I get to have one at my signing and that's enough for me.

(I wonder if it will be the Macarena, Kung Fu Fighting, or some other fun/wacky song for the flash mob.  I am being kept in the dark.  I mean, what?  Do people really thinkg I would post about something as secretive as a flash mob on my BLOG??)

Er, um, .....oops.  Looks like that is what I just did.

So, anyway, I had to google a lot of flash mobs, you know, just to see.  I highly recommend it.  I can't decide which one I like best, but the billions of elves in the Elf Yourself one is pretty awesome.

Moving right along--would love to see you tomorrow at B and N if you'd like to come.  (Flash mob is at 4:15, I will read and sign at 5 and 7.  Lots of other fun things as well, including some hula-ing.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Those That are Now Lost to Us

We lost someone this week.

And it's not like we didn't see this coming.  My friend had fought her illness bravely for six years.  And yet....the shock is still immense and my heart is hurting.

The hardest part when we lose someone are those moments when all of a sudden, in the middle of the drive to soccer practice or a math lesson, it hits you all over again, as if you are realizing for the first time that your friend is truly gone.

Life, however, goes on. But Death--Death stops us and wakes us up and says, "Hey!  Something happened here!  Slow down and pay attention.  And Remember."


I remember her quick smile and her grace and her passion for teaching little ones.  I remember how much she cared and how much she believed.

And I find myself rushing, rushing, rushing (even more so than usual) to get all of the THINGS done that must be done so I don't fall BEHIND because this is the life that I lead.  The life where there is always more to do than there is time for and the life that if I sit for one minute quietly, I agonize over the THINGS I am not getting done in that moment.

Yet this particular passing, this Death, brings me to a screeching halt.  It makes me understand that it is impossible to get behind in Life.  Life just goes on.  It.just.does.  And it's okay to stop and remember. Not only is it okay.  It is necessary.

They say that those who pass live on in our hearts and our minds.  And I think that might be true.  But I also think that it is hard to plant a seed and nourish a young seedling of memory if the ground is unstable and ever moving.

A seed needs quiet and calm.

For those of use who have suffered the loss of a dear one, I am wishing us moments of comfort, calm, and peace this December.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Contest!!

Okay, so here's the deal.

I'd like to give the gift of reading (as in one of my books!) to a classroom.  Reading aloud to children is one of the best presents a teacher can give to his/her students.  And in these days of high stakes testing, sometimes the practice of sitting down and enjoying a book with children falls by the wayside.


Please win us!  We love for our story to be read by children!

So, if you'd like to win a copy of the latest Good Knight adventure, A GOOD KNIGHT'S REST, for your child's classroom, just enter below.  I am planning to go to the post office by December 16th to mail packages to my family and I can easily add one more to the stack.  I'll send it Priority, so hopefully the class can share the fun before the holiday break.

All you have to to do enter is to leave your email and tell me what your favorite holiday book is.

I'll start:  Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol.

Speaking of caroling....are those the elves from Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer getting ready to sing??

And I think there are some Santas battling in the corner!
Contest will run until Friday, December 2.  I will place all names in the Sugar Bowl of Despair and draw one lucky winner out.


Monday, November 21, 2011

In the Story Castle Today...

Well, let's see.

There are lots of tired people in the Storycastle.  As in very tired.  I can remember being a kid and whenever my folks had "yard work day" I would fall into bed SO TIRED (but everyone around here is even TIREDER than that!)  That's what a weekend of Irish Dance Championships will do to you.

And there are also Christmas boxes down from the attic.

"But StoryQueen," you say. "'Tis not even the Giving of Thanks.  How can one possibly be setting up for the Season of Yule?"

It's like this.  Every moment between now and December 23 is completely packed for the residents of chez Story and if I don't get it set up between now and 6:00 p.m. tomorrow night, it won't happen until the 23rd.

And that is just not acceptable.

I like a full holiday season, my friends.  I think my favorite part of the whole thing is sitting by the tree in the dark of the morning before everyone gets up. Every day in December.  No presents.  No craziness.  Just me and Tree.  I could do it for weeks on end.  Which is precisely why I have to set up NOW.

And I have a lot of work to do if I am going to find a way to suspend the Millennium Falcon from the ceiling so it can protect Tree.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Something Very Cool

Eric Carle had this lovely book come out this year:

This is a wonderful, inspiring book and the NEA is using it for their Blue Horse Auction, to support the arts.  "Art Inspires Learning, Learning Inspires Art," is the theme.

The gist of the auction is that several artists were asked to paint some kind of horse inspired picture to be auctioned off during October and November.  There are paintings by Mo Willems, Mary Grandpre,  David Williams, Tomie DePaola and of course, Eric Carle, just to name a few.

Here is the link to the auction:

But wait!  There's more!  Look at this little beauty:

That's right!  My artist, Jennifer Plecas, was asked donate a painting, and she chose to immortalize the horse from the Good Knight books!  Look, he finally gets to be the star! The auction for this painting went up yesterday.

I want it.  Badly.

I am just so honored and thrilled to be somehow connected to this wonderful auction.  Creativity lives in each of us!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011




Not too much, really.

But I keep reminding myself that it is better than nothing--and way more than there would be if I hadn't decided to NaNoFiMo.

I am writing a book right now that I truly have NO IDEA how I am going to get it to the place I think it needs to go. Not that I really even know where it will end up.  I just kind of have an idea of where it might ought to go.  I feel like some inept person pointing to a map and saying, "Hey, I think I'll go to that dot there.  Looks like a good dot."

But the story is interesting to me, so I will continue to follow it.

At a snail's pace.

However, I kind of want to write something Christmas-y, and I am not certain if such a scene will fit in my WIP.  Some of my favorite tales are Christmas tales (A Christmas Carol, The Velveteen Rabbit, etc).  I just want to write something that will get me in the spirit.

Maybe I'll just throw caution to the wind and start something new.  (Not something long, just something a little newish...)

Something small.

Like a tiny, little Christmas story.

"Most stories about Christmas are big and shiny
with large presents and tall, glittering trees.

But not this story.

This is a very tiny Christmas tale..."

Hmm...wonder what I'll do with that.


Friday, November 4, 2011

The 22nd Day

On the 22nd day (I had been running every day for 21 days straight.  Every.Single.Day), something happened.

I know they say that you need to do something 21 times for a habit to kick in.

I've never really believed stuff like that.

But on the 22nd day, I sprinted.

My knees didn't ache, nor did my ankles.  And when I got to the park near my house, I just felt like running as fast as I could, so I did.

I supposed I posted this so I could tell you how it relates to writing, but I don't think you need me to make the obvious connection for you.

The more you do something, the better you get.

In that vein, here are somethings I want to get better at, hence I should do more of :

1.  Petting my dog's tummy in just the right way.

2.  Sleeping and dreaming GOOD dreams.

3.  Prioritizing.

4.  Baking apricot pecan bread.

5.  Writing beautifully crafted scenes.

6.  Cracking myself up with my words.

7.  Loving every moment in this life and appreciating it for the lesson it is trying to teach me.

Wishing you a weekend filled with wonderful moments.


Oh, and Sarah the Bookduck interviewed me yesterday.  Here is the link.  Watch out for Popeye.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hey, Yoda! I Beg to Differ

Okay, so I was teaching my third graders about chemistry (I know!!) and one of my students brought this in:

Could it be any cooler?  No.  It could not be any cooler.

Anyway, I was reading it (and cracking up!) when I discovered that on the bottom row are the elements :
Do (do) and Dn (do not) and Tr (there is no Try) and I thought, "Now wait a minute, Jedi Master."

There IS a Try.

Because sometimes we start things that we aren't even certain if we can finish them, so we challenge ourselves.  Is it the not knowing that makes the challenge all the  I mean, if I knew I could do something, and then I did it, well, that would be wonderful, right?  But what if I didn't know if I would be successful, but I threw myself into it anyway, wouldn't that be even more risky?  And wouldn't the pay-off be (maybe) even more wonderful?

Perhaps because I lead a fairly safe life, I test myself by taking risks in my writing.  I start things that I have no idea how to finish.  And sometimes, I have not finished them.

But other times, that Try turns into an accomplishment.

With that in mind, I am going to Try my own twist on NaNoWriMo--NaNoFiMo.  I will be attempting to finish a book.  I am about halfway there.  

But even if I don't make it, the cool thing is that I will  be a lot closer than I was.

Take that, Yoda.

(Or "That you will take," for those who understand Yoda-speak.)

Who's with me?  Who else is going to Try something this November?


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Running, Writing, and the Hardest Part

So, I started running.

Oh, not far.  I don't run very far.

And not very fast, either.

I mean, I was just kind of bored with the rowing machine in the garage and craved fresh air as I attempted exercise, so I started running 13 days ago in the early morning darkness.  And I have run every day for 13 days.  It's kind of like a personal challenge, just to see how long I can mange it--running every day.

And 13 days in a row is nothing, NOTHING in the big picture of fitness. But I feel like I am doing what I can.

And that will just have to be enough.

But I was telling my husband about my pitiful distance (can't even record it here, I don't have numbers on the keypad small enough) and he said, "But you're doing it!  That's the hardest part, the getting up and starting."

I thought about that as I ran. Is the hardest part really just putting your mind to it and starting?

As I rounded the first bend (and the grade increased and a Hummer pulled out of the driveway in front of me), I realized that starting is the EASY part.

Not stopping?  That is the hardest part.

The will to keep going, in running and writing, is the battle I wage against myself most days.

Beginnings are lovely and beautiful and the adrenaline is pumping and Man-o-MAN is this ever going to be good!  I breathe the cold air into my lungs in large drags.  I write freely and wildly, because these are the first words and it doesn't matter if they are perfect or not because if I don't like them I can start again.  Starting is easy.

But continuing--laying word after word on paper, foot after foot on the rough pavement--this is what makes a runner into an athlete and a writer into an author.

So...don't stop.

(As if it were that easy...)


Friday, October 21, 2011

Crud...Where Did the Week Go?

Pick the best excuse for the week that just disappeared:

1.  A herd of angry, runaway camels stampeded through the week, leaving only its dusty remains.

2.  Someone in a time machine (perhaps HG Wells himself) time-traveled and actually stole the week and took it back to another century.

3.  It's like when you lose that hour with daylight savings time, but with a week.

4.  I am part bear and I hibernated a little early, then woke up when I realized it wasn't even close to winter.

5.  A tiny mouse with a locket borrowed from the late Harry Houdini hypnotized me into thinking that a week had actually passed when in fact it didn't. (Which means that the week didn't really disappear, I simply perceived that it did.)

6.  Stephen Hawking did it.  (I am not sure what he did...but he probably did something since it involves the space-time continuum.)

7.  The Force Was Not With Me.

8.  I fell asleep in a meeting* and woke up centuries later, kind of like Rip Van Winkle, except that I have to re-experience everything like Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day.

9. I fell asleep in a meeting* and woke up centuries later, kind of like rip Van Winkle, except that I have to re-experience everything like Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day.

10. (did you get what I just did there^?)

Okay, seriously, I have no idea what happened.  It seems like I just blinked and it's Friday.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Friday!!  But come on!  I'd like to remember the rest of the days, too!

And, before I forget, I just want to say that my third grade class is loving this book:
love, love, love, love, love
It is written by the wonderful RL LaFevers.  It is just so perfect for my third graders.  They love the interesting vocabulary and everyone just adores Greasle.

Teachers, this is an awesome read-aloud.

Okay...back to find what is left of the week.

Oh, I did get to hear Elana Johnson, Kirsten Hubbard, Jessi Kirby and John Corey Whaley  talk about their books on Thursday night.  I really wished I could have hung out with such coool authors for a while, but alas, the mommy chauffeur service was in high demand.


*this part may or may not have actually happened.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Making a Difference

Not too long ago, this appeared in my inbox.  It is an article that tells about young people planting trees and making a difference in the world.

And they did this, too:

The students took turns reading passages from “Somewhere Today: A book of peace” by Shelley Moore Thomas before helping pat dirt around the new tree, which will soon boast a plaque commemorating Peace Week.

I could not be more touched.

When the youth of today take action in their world, it inspires others to do the same. That was the whole point of the book.  And I cannot tell you how much it means to me that, 13 years later, the message from my little book is still out there, getting read to new ears and new trees and hopefully influencing new people to make decisions that change our world for the better.

Still in print.  

Thank you, students from Santa Maria, Orcutt, and Guadalupe for letting me be a part of your amazing Peace Week.  (About 450 of the 700 people that participated were students!  Go awesome young people!!)

I challenge all of you reading this to do one thing this week that helps the world--big or small--it doesn't matter.  What matters is that you put thoughts and words into action.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Hungry Gargoyles Come Calling

Over the summer, my daughter, Noel, went to Paris.  (I know!  Lucky!)  Anyway, she asked me what I wanted her to bring back for me.  At first, I didn't want her to have to lug anything back.  I just wanted her to study for her classes in France and to come back safely.  (And I didn't want her spending her hard-earned money on me.  The  exchange rate was horrible in July.)

But then I thought of something I really wanted:

Notre Dame.  Could it be any lovelier?
I wanted her to take a picture of a gargoyle at Notre Dame Cathedral (in black and white, for I like black and white photography best) so I could put it above my desk.

Yes, believe it or not, in addition to Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, apparently I've got a thing for gargoyles.

Noel accomplished her task well. However, I had completely forgotten about printing the picture and getting it framed until the other day when I saw gargoyles at Target.  (I love their Halloween gargoyles!  Might have to add a new one to the collection.)  So I rushed home and opened up the file in my computer.

The problem?

I can't decide which gargoyle!

This is the fierce, eagle gargoyle!  Listen, you can almost hear him shrieking.

The dog-gargoyle twins.  I have named them Fred and George.  Notice the mis-shapen ear?

This little beauty is ready to pounce!

This guy is totally trying to eat that tree, poor little hungry thing.

So, which gargoyle will get to live in the antique retro-looking (or perhaps shockingly modern) frame above my desk, frightening off all distractions?

Help me decide.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Things I Might Have Done This Week

1.  I might have ordered an In-N-Out burger without the spread.  And I just might have liked it.

2.  I might have finished all of the edits I needed to for a while, which means I might get to work on my WIP.

3.  I might be totally afraid to open the document.  (Of course this means I haven't opened it...what if it is lame???)

4.  I might have encouraged my students to make origami hats out of a math page that made no sense. (Not sayin' I did, just sayin' I might have. Besides, there are better ways to assess mathematical knowledge than worksheets.  Everyone knows that.)

5.  I might have forgotten to do laundry.  (Okay, I did.  I'll just admit it.)

6.  I might have sorted my class into Hogwarts' Houses (then switched the houses to Star Wars ships, just to change things up a bit.) 

7.  I might have gotten to see a draft of my cover for The Seven Tales of Trinket.  It might be totally awesome.  (Actually, it IS totally awesome.)


Sunday, October 2, 2011

The End is Near

Well, the end of the copy-edits are near, I think.  (A copy-editor would probably say "is near" in that last sentence.)

Doing the edits hasn't been that bad, just finding the chunks of time in which to do them has been hard!  (And getting over the embarrassment of some of the silly mistakes I the occasional forgetting of a WORD!  An essential word!  A word needed for sentence sense!!!  So, um, yeah, glad I don't have to look the copy-editors in the eye right now.)

But I am struggling with a capitalization issue.  It deals with the Gaelic spelling of a creature in Celtic folklore. I seem to be capitalizing this word all of the time...and according to my copy-editors, I don't really need to.  So I started thinking, "Well, self, why are you inflicting capitalization where none is needed?"

No easy answers, of course.

But I thought, maybe, just maybe, I was subconsciously copying an old folkloric style.  Perhaps, long ago, such words were always in caps and I was inadvertently doing the same. So I pulled out a bunch of old Celtic folklore books (got Celtic folklore questions?  I'm your go-to-gal.) to have myself a look-see.

But I got distracted from my search when I found this poem by Irish poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy (who supposedly wrote poetry while working for the British Museum.)  This is part of a larger poem called "Ode", this part is an ode to writers:

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.

World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.

And after than, I really have no other words.


P.S. I love when I am searching for one thing but find something even better!  (I guess I did have a few other words.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why My Kids Rule!

My birthday was over the weekend and this is what I got:



Is my family awesome or what?  I mean, I cannot believe that I now actually own the Falcon!! (Shh...the best part is that I didn't have to build it!  They built it for me.  It's not that I stink at Lego building or anything, so don't think that.  AT ALL.  Because I bet I could build an awesome Millennium Falcon...once I undid the mistakes and tried again for like the third or fourth time.)

And it came with these:


A tiny little Han Solo!  He can play with my other Lego guys!  I bet he will be besties with:

Uh-oh.  Wait a minute.  Han Solo and Indiana Jones are both alter-egos of my inner editor--Harrison Ford.


Because what I am supposed to be doing right now is focusing copy edits, not playing with my new little Lego guys and searching for internet pictures of them

I hear them from the other room.  They are probably talking about me.



Indy- (cough) this is awkward.....

Han-Where is the cheese?

Or not.

Off to edit more, before the boys come and get me.


p.s. What was your favorite birthday gift ever?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Small Things That Make the World Better

Twitter is an interesting world.  Just last week, a professor/friend and I reconnected and he had linked to a fascinating article about some mysterious book/art/gifts that were turning up around Edinburgh, Scotland.  Here is an example:
I love this little guy!
You can read the whole story if you click here.

I mean, how cool is that?  Awesome book sculptures mysteriously left at places that value literacy. (Okay, so I have a tiny problem with the books being cut up--but it is a tiny problem.  The art that springs from the pages and the message from the artist is...well....I don't quite have the words, actually.)

What I do know is that when I see things like this, when I see someone doing something completely unexpected and beautiful, perhaps even anonymously, I am filled with hope for our world.

I know we all have our own ways of touching the lives of others.  Some (like the dragon maker) create art, some write poetry, some help children, some wipe tears away, some heal wounds, some make chocolate cupcakes. some plant trees and flowers...I could go on and on.

The important thing is that all of these little things make the world a better place.  Imagine if every person did one awesome, unexpectedly beautiful thing tomorrow...the world would be billions of times better in just one day!  (yeah, I know, my math is off, but you get the idea.)


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Things You Find on the Internet...

So I was taking a quick break from revising (only 15 more pages to go...considered cutting them, but then the story just doesn't really end, and as much as I want to finish, I can't just whack off the culminating moment, now can I?) and so I was playing playing with google and look what I stumbled upon.

Yes.  Some completely humiliating photos taken whilst I was in Chicago this summer.  These are from my visit to Plainfield Public Library.  I found them on the flicker feed from plainfieldpubliclibrarydistrict.

Me and Oreo.  I kind of look more like a monkey than he does.

Look!  I am even putting myself to sleep!  What is up with that?

Forgot to feed the crown that morning so it ate my head.

Elvis the Alien and I look strangely like twins.  Ugh.
And what is the lesson, boys and girls?

I will tell you:  When you are supposed to be revising, do not surf the internet as a way to procrastinate or you, too, might stumble upon embarrassing photos.

(Actually, as goofy as I look, I am grateful to Plainfield for recording the event.  When I am presenting to kids, I can't take pictures, and usually I am so focused on getting ready for the show that I forget to hand my camera to someone else.  Thank you, Plainfield!)

And now my crown is hungry again.  Must go feed it before it eats my head.'s that revising thing I still have to finish.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Muse

This is my current muse--a Glen of Imaal terrier.  I have named this one ^ Mungo.  (Although I don't know what its real name is...but I have never seen a dog look so much like a Mungo in all my life.)

One part adorable + one part gruff + one part strong + one part stout = Mungo.

You know, sometimes at night before I go to sleep, I kind of wish I could live in my stories for a while.  Maybe I am just hopeful that the dream faerie will allow me to visit my story-land for a bit.  Usually by morning, theses fanciful thought have disappeared, gone with the last star.

However, I find myself wishing these days for a little terrier named Mungo....(and also wishing that if I did have one, he could also happen to shape-shift into an otter!)

What is your current muse?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Why Everyone Needs a Head Lamp

Yesterday all of the power went out.  I mean, really went out. No street lights, no nothing.

It was supposed to be Back-to-School Night at my school, but of course it had to be postponed.  So, when I finally got home (horrible traffic) I was trying to figure out what to do.


Not knowing how long the blackout might last, we ate pretzels from the pantry for dinner.  (Luckily the neighbors came through with campfires and smores and hotdogs for the kids.)

But I  have this miserable cold and just didn't feel like socializing. So my husband gave me his headlamp (for, of course, he is prepared for stuff like this.  Me?  I've got a plate of five tea light candles I'm carrying through the house.) And I got to sit and READ.

There were no revisions to work on.  No email to answer.  No paperwork on the computer to do because we were totally cut off!

It was a little bit lovely.


P.S.  This has nothing to do with anything, but I noticed this recently when I was reading TAKE CARE, GOOD KNIGHT to some kids.  Look...right THERE:
LOOK!  I am selling icecream to the Good Knight!!! There I am!  Right in the middle of my own book!
(I bet Paul didn't even know he put me there!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

So, How Many Times Do You Revise a Book?

I am talking about chapterbooks/novels right now, for picture books are a different kettle of revision fish for me. Anyway, this is kind of how my process goes:

Step 1:  Write a first draft.  (Not the easiest step, but my favorite.  Usually, there is no time limit or deadline unless it is self-imposed.  It can take a while to finish. For example, The Seven Tales of Trinket took 5-6 months to write--even though I started to try and write it in 2003 but the computer crashed and I figured the story must be cursed* so I did not attempt it again for several years)

Step 2:  Revise for clarity of story.  (This is my first revision and it is just for me.  This is when I try to decide if the story even makes sense, and if it doesn't, I've got my work cut out for me.  I usually try to finish a revision like this in a few weeks.  It is far more intense than a first draft, but easier in some ways, since the ground work is laid.)

Step 3: Revise for Chapter Breaks.  (I usually write the book as one giant lump, except in cases where there are natural breaks, as in Trinket where there were 7 tales which were already broken up.  This is the revisions where I am deciding where to break the chapters and how to frame them, and if framing the chapters is even necessary.)

Step 4: Revise based on Agent's Feedback.  (This might happen three times.  My agent, Jo, first works on the Big Ideas of the plot with me.  Then she might do a round of line edits or two, depending on how much sense I make as I revise.  For Trinket, we did three rounds.  None of the rounds were incredibly difficult, but each time we went a bit deeper until the story held together the way we envisioned it.  I am on my second revision for Jo for my book, Keelie of the Lake.)

Step 5:  Revise based on Editor's Feedback.  (This also might happen several times.  My editor, Beth, approaches revision in a similar manner to Jo, wherein they both look at Big Ideas of the plot first, then work they way down to sentence fluency/story consistency and the picky word choice edit is saved for last. For Trinket, we did about 3 rounds.  The book is in copyediting right now, so I suppose when I get it back that will be the 4th round.)

If you count all of those up-- 2 for me, 3 for Jo, 4 for Beth, that gives us 9 revisions. Sheesh!  That seems like a lot of versions of the same story.  The funny thing is, it doesn't really FEEL like a lot of revision.

It feels like getting closer and closer to the way the story is supposed to be.

How many revisions do you do?


*Truly, it was a good thing that those 80 pages were lost.  I can still see a few of them in my mind.  I was not a patient enough person to write the story back then and I think I would have botched it.  I know I did not have the strength of heart to revise 9 times back then, I can tell you that much!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Well Hello, September

I guess you kind of snuck up on me, September.  I mean, I knew you were coming, but I did not expect you quite so soon.

To me, September is the official beginning of Autumn.  Oh, I know the equinox (great word, equinox) isn't until September twenty-something, but ever since I worked as a young college student at Goldwater's department store and Sept.1 was the mandatory switch-over-to-Fall-wardrobe-deadline-or-get-written-up-we-don't-care-how-hot-it-is, the first day of September has always signaled Fall.  (Yes, there were many days were were sweating up a storm in our preppy flannels, sweaters and woolen skirts as the New Mexico Summer hadn't finished with us until well into October...But Goldwater's was unsympathetic to the plight of the sales associates. Can't sell the Fall line unless the sales clerks wear the clothes!)

Anyway, here's a few things I look forward to most as Fall approaches:

  • Cooler weather!  (Until the Santa Ana winds come.  Boo!)
  • Colorful and crunchy leaves. (So stereotypical, I know, but I love them.)
  • Friday nights with homemade soup and apple crisp for dessert
  • Children (my own) who are excited by homework and not bored by it yet
  • The smell of fireplaces burning in the chill of the evening
  • Saturday soccer games
*sigh of contentment*

Welcome, Fall!


Here are a few of the recipes I am most looking forward to making:

green chile stew
Greek lemon chicken soup
bacon waffles

So hungry!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Random Things: The Weekend Before School Starts Edition

1.  Since I will have my own classroom again, I am seriously considering not giving any homework except for reading. (As in read some books, for goodness sake!!)

2.  Trying to figure out a way to wear an Indiana Jones outfit to school on the first day without looking like I am trying too hard.

3.  Had some mangoes at a teacher meeting yesterday.  Usually I don't like mango, but it was so yummy!

4.  Ate at Benihana last night--wouldn't it be cool if dinner every night was performance art? (Probably wouldn't be as exciting with a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese...)

5.  Written very few words this week.  Not happy about that.  At all.

6.  Fresh baguette=awesome.  Old baguette=yuck. (No, it's okay, I didn't need that tooth anyway.)

7.  Bought some frames yesterday to put some of my bookcovers in...yes, I am three books behind. But the frames are bought.  Hopefully I'll get it done before 2012.

8.  I am afraid to make a list of everything I need to do this weekend. It is not good to live in fear, but there you have it.

So, what's the randomness that's clogging your brain these days?


Monday, August 22, 2011

In Which I Judge Books by Their Covers

I mean, we all do it, don't we?

And I can't really explain why I am drawn to certain book covers over others.  Much of it is just personal preference. Some people like Swiss cheese, some like Monterey Jack.  Some don't like cheese at all (but I really can't conceive of this situation myself) but you get the idea.

That being said,  here are I few books that are soon to release (or have just released in the last few months) that draw me to their covers.

First up is Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver.  I love this cover so much!  I love how it's like I am looking through a magical peep-hole--and oh, what a peep-hole!  Love the carvings.  (I am guessing that they are supporting characters to the story)  Again, I know very little about this book ,but I am guessing that the friendship of the girl in the picture (probably Liesl) and the little furry thing beside her is a very important part of the story.  Oh, I can't wait.  Releases in Sept.

Next, we have Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier.  It's no secret that I love  a cover with a silhouette on the front.  And, oooohhh, look at the sneakiness of  the boy!  I bought this the other day based on the description ( the greatest thief, who is really a boy with no eyes who has three sets of FANTASTIC eyes), but I picked it off of the shelf in the first place due to the cover.  Love.  Looking forward to digging into this one.  Released in Aug.

When I look at the cover of With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo, it tells me that this book is going to be full of heart.  I am kind of expecting to cry a little when I read this, but I love a good middle-grade book that makes me tear up.  I love how the pieces of paper floating by seem a little mysterious.  Disclosure:  I have read Tess's blog for a couple of years, but she is in no way forcing me to love her cover.  I simply do.  Releases in Sept.

Kat Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis.  Nothing says fun like a floating teapot!  Seriously folks, this cover simply oozes fun (or pours fun, I should say.  Difficult for tea to ooze.  At least I wouldn't drink it if it did ooze.)  I love the old-fashionedness of the setting, yet look at our girl's hair.  Ha!  She is going to do things her way, I can just tell.  Love, love, love a strong middle-grade heroine.  Released in April.

Finally, we have Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by  Ransom Riggs.  Okay, is this the creepiest cover you have ever seen or what??  And I don't like scary things.  I really don't.  And yet, I am drawn to this cover, for it seems ghosty-scary, but there is also something that is so compelling about it.  I cannot stop thinking about what secrets must lurk between the pages.  And the curiosity is getting the better of me!  Released in June.

So there you have it. Books judged by their covers.  By me.

Isn't book art wonderful?


Feel free to share your cover love, recent or far in the past.  Your choice.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting Books in the Hands of Children

That's what it's all about, right?  Getting books into the hands (and hearts!) of readers.  In my case, the readers are children.

So, I was so happy to see what Penguin (my publisher for the Good Knight Series) had cooked up for a couple of my books. They are re-releasing GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT and GET WELL, GOOD KNIGHT as part of their Penguin Young Reader Program.  I am thrilled, because that means more books in the hands of young readers!!

And look, they even did a little redesign on the covers:
This one releases in September.

This one comes out in January

And I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Imagination Library, but it is a program (started by Dolly Parton) that puts books into the hands of children FOR FREE.  I have been honored by the fact that they have been giving away TAKE CARE, GOOD KNIGHT in their program:

Here is a nice article about how some really great people who have made such a difference in the lives of preschool children in their community by seeing that books get into the hands of kids.  I mean, 10,000 books!  (That's a lot of books!)

Of course, my favorite part of the article was this quote:

Sometime this summer, the 10,000th free book was delivered to a child’s mail box. It may have been Julie Chaffee’s. Chaffee, 5, loves receiving the books in the mail. Her favorite is “Take Care, Good Knight” by Shelley Moore Thomas. “I like it because I get to read it to my dolly that I got at the garage sale,” she said.

Yes, I melted a little.  And there could have been a tear.  Because that's what it's all about when you write for children, getting the book into the tiny little hands and having them read it (or having someone read it to them).  

It's why we do what we do.

And Kudos to both Penguin and Dolly Parton for doing their part in helping our children become literate.  Knowledge is Power, and the better you can read, the more knowledge is available to you and the more control you will eventually have in determining your own destiny.

(Sorry to go all Jedi on you, but this is important, folks. Kids need reading.  They need books!)


Monday, August 15, 2011

You Don't Want to Miss This!

If you haven't heard about this....WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??
This free, online conference will be going on August 16, 17 and 18.  If you didn't get to go to SCBWI (or even if you did) this is a chance for you to attend workshops and interact with industry professionals right in the comfort of your very own your very own pajamas if you like.

I am honored to be a small part of such an amazing event. If you haven't clicked over to see the full faculty and the schedule of event, do it now.  I'll wait.  You can click here. 

I know, right?

Anyway, I made a vlog in which I am visited by some very famous, virtual guests...kind of.  My blog airs at 10:30 a.m. (eastern time), on Tuesday, August 16.  I hope you get a chance to participate in the coolest thing on the internet since Marcel the Shell with his Shoes On.  (google it if you don't know what it is...adorable!)

See you in the WOC forums!


Saturday, August 13, 2011


August is the time of year when I kind of look back and evaluate my yearly progress in preparation for the new year (of school, naturally.)  I joked back in January that this would be the year of revision for me.

Well, it was.  It still is.  But let's take a look-see, shall we?

1.  SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET-This was revised a couple of times and is now in copy-editing. (I kept thinking each round would get easier, but in truth, each round held its own hidden gargoyle of despair that I had to defeat in order to move on. But move on I did!)

2.  KEELIE OF THE LAKE-Revised this once for myself and once for my agent (who has it now).  I will probably do another round based on her feedback.

3.  Various Picture Book Titles-Er, um...yeah.  I played with a few ideas, but I haven't really written one in the past few months that I LOVE.  And that is what it takes when it comes to a picture book manuscript.  (Well, any ms, actually).  You must LOVE it and you must be able to visualize it in the hands of children.  It must work on every level you need it to work on.

I am a bit bummed that I haven't come through with something like this in 2011 yet.  But I am not giving up.  I have two ideas (pitifully low number) that I THINK can go the distance, if only I can conjure the perfect words.  (Because with picture book writing, it's conjuring as much as anything that gets the book written:)

4. New Book (mg novel):  Yay!  Something new in the year of revision.  It's tentative title is: Feathers, Songs, and Curses. I am about 1/3 of the way done.

Goals?  Well, before the end of the year, I'd like to get Keelie all shaped up and purty, and finish the draft of FS and C.  I'd also like to have TWO picture book mss that I LOVE and BELIEVE in with all of my heart and soul.

How are your writing goals for the year coming along?


P.S.  Chapterbook?  (yes, please.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

So...I Have Map


My children's novel is going to have a map.

Not that I am new to the whole map thing.  I mean, Jennifer Plecas (my illustrator for A GOOD KNIGHT'S REST) put a map in that book:
Could it be more adorable?  I mean, just look at it!  And, there's the added bonus that a map makes it easier (and more fun)
for a child to retell a story.  Look!  You can follow the exact path the dragons took!
Hmm...that mountain is almost as cool as this mountain:
Behold the amazingness!  (I took this in Yosemite on Saturday.)  Theodore Roosevelt is now my favorite president for creating the National Parks Act (or whatever it was called.)

Anyway, my new book, THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET is going to have a map!!  They even had me sketch a lame version, but an actual artist is going to do the one for the book. Thank Heavens, or you would be looking at something with scribbles and stick trees.  I am so excited to have a map.  I mean, it probably won't be as intricate as this map:

(I really wish I could take my Lego people and play with them on this map!! My micro Indiana Jones, Obi-wan, and Harry Potter could wage some epic battles--What?  You don't play with your kids' toys?  Sure you don't.)

But a map!  A map!  Yay!

I would squee, but I am a queen, and hence far too dignified for squeeage.  But you can imagine that I am sitting in my throne clapping, if you like.  I clap like Dumbledore, with only two fingers on each hand.  It's a very classy way to clap.

Try it sometime.

I guess I am so excited about getting a map because I was the kind of kid who loved drawing maps, who loved watching pirate movies (just because they were likely to have a map!), who loved imagining imaginary places....

And now I get one!


Are there any books with maps you love?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Changes: National Parks, Jobs, Hair, and Twits

Oh, hi.

So, this has been a summer of changes for me.

1. In which I changed my mind....

See, I was really, REEAALLY going to go to the SCBWI conference in LA  this year.  Really.  I mean, all year long I thought, this is my year, baby.  I even socked money away so I wouldn't feel guilty about the big ding on the old credit card when I hit the pay button.  And then I looked at my calendar and realized that the ONLY weekend the ENTIRE summer that my little family could get away and do something was the very SAME weekend.  I was torn.

But folks, these people I live with have been so awesome to me this past year.  They have given up a lot of mom/wife time so I could write/revise/edit/tour and, well, I realized how much I miss them--how much I miss just hanging out with them. Sooooo, we are crazily going to hop in the car and go to Yosemite tomorrow.  Do we know where we are staying?  No!  Are we bringing appropriate footwear for hiking? No!  Do we have any idea what we are doing?  No!  (Watch for our upcoming special on the Animal Planet Show:  I Shouldn't Be Alive.)

2. In which my job changed:

So, there are these things called budget cuts. Perhaps you've heard of them.  And though I've tried hard to fly under the radar, it is hard to stay undetected when you are selected as Teacher of the Year.  But times are tough. Thus, my job will look a little different this year and it appears I will have my own class again as part of it.  I am excited, but a tad saddened. Here I am holding one of the many notes from kids at my school, letting me know how much they will miss having me come to their classes each week to tell stories and teach about writing.

But don't get me wrong.  I am thrilled to still be employed.  Many great teachers are not so fortunate.

3.  In which I wonder what is happening with my hair:

For a while, my hair might have looked like Xeno's.

Then it grew even longer, more like Lucius'.

This is me this morning in a still shot from a vlog.

I mean...wha??  Are we like triplets separated at birth??  #needhaircutandormajorconditioningnow.

4.  In which I have a change of policy:

I have always said I wouldn't join twitter because I feared the sucking away of precious time.  And I still fear it.  Listen...slurp...slurp...that is the sound of time being sucked away.  But I caved.  The reason?  Well, I discovered a way that twitter could actually SAVE me time.  You see, there are lots of people I would like to say something to, or books that I would love to recommend to kids/parents/teachers/whatever, but when I write a blog, I tend to ramble a bit. (What?  Like you haven't noticed?) And thus, it takes me a long time to write a post, and my best intentions go by the wayside.  However, twitter forces you to be short and sweet. I can tweet (still feel funny saying that word) about #bookseverykidshouldread and I am done in like a minute! And I don't feel the addictive tug of it that I was afraid of.  So, yes.  I have become a twit.  @story_queen, if you are at all interested.

Whew!  Off to pack mosquito repellent.  If you are going to SCBWI, have a blast.  If you are with your family having fun, enjoy!