November 29, 2011

Poetry Corner Tuesday

Another song, this one is from my own experiences growing up in my family. What can I say? The holidays are here... a time for sweet memories and flickering candlelight.

My Best Friends
Helping Mommy in the kitchen, licking out the bowl;
When we got an owie, Mommy’s kiss could make us whole;
Wrestling with Daddy, after dishes were done,
Dancing in the living room, memories of fun.

Family bonds
Of love so strong
Growing up together
Made us friends forever
Brothers and sister, my best friends

Running through the sprinkler or playing make-believe
Baseball in the back yard, and climbing up tall trees,
Eating supper together, every single night
Daddy reading stories before turning out the lights.

Family bonds
Of love so strong
Growing up together
Made us friends forever
Brothers and sister, my best friends

And though we grow and live miles apart
These memories always live in my heart
They make me stop, they make me smile
Reminding me for just a while

Family bonds
Of love so strong
Growing up together
Made us friends forever
Brothers and sister, my best friends

And now we’ve grown, we’re miles apart
Sweet memories stay alive in my heart
And though I know childhood must end
I’m never alone, nor without friends

November 22, 2011

Poetry Corner Tuesday

I much prefer writing song lyrics to just writing poetry. This is a realization I have come to in the past few years. I love writing poetry, but hearing my words turned into music is just one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced.

This is another song that Brittany commissioned a while back. Another one I don't know if she ever got around to writing music for... but hopefully someday!

This song is based on the story of Chicken Little... but with a twist...

Sky Fall Away
On his head the acorn fell we know the story well
What if that little chicken was too afraid to tell?
Perhaps a lot of others, would not have gotten scared
They also wouldn’t know how much their king really cared.

Sky, fall away, send us running to our King
He will calm our hearts and all fears we may bring.
So sky, fall away, fall away, fall away, fall away

Troubles bring us fears and doubts with questions like, “Why me?”
Caught up in our moment, we can find it hard to see
That big or small, real or imagined, with everything
Like that little chicken we should run straight to the King.

Time and again, in our lives,
We hesitate to do what’s right
Terrified that no one cares
That no one listens to our prayers

Sky, fall away, send us running to our King
He will calm our hearts and all fears we may bring.
So sky, fall away, fall away, fall away

November 19, 2011

Proof Copy

My proof copy will be here by Wednesday!!!

(it actually shipped TODAY... so it might even get here sooner)

November 15, 2011

Poetry Corner Tuesday

One of the things I do besides write books, is I am a lyricist for Brittany Jean. Every now and then I'll send her a set of lyrics and ask her to create a song out of them... but more often she will "commission" a set of lyrics. This one was in memory of a classmate of hers in high school who died a few years ago. I don't know if she has put it to music yet, but the story captured me and her ideas for the song just wrapped themselves around my thoughts. It usually takes me a few hours to write a song, but this one came to me in the span of about 20 minutes.

Sailing Into the Arms of God

Sailing away before his time
The pain is ours, we must press on
With heavy hearts we’re left behind.

Are you prepared
To walk on water?
Are you prepared
To meet your King?
When your ship comes
Will you also sail
Into the arms of God?

It’s hard to understand the why
So much left on his horizon
Too strong, too brave, too young to die.

Are you prepared
To walk on water?
Are you prepared
To meet your King?
When your ship comes
Will you also sail
Into the arms of God?

If we could just see beyond the veil
That separates us from what’s to come
Even now our hearts would not fail
The faithful will be welcomed home.

Sailing away he goes before
He’s strong and healthy at the prow
Sailing into the arms of the Lord.

Are you prepared
To walk on water?
Are you prepared
To meet your King?
When your ship comes
Will you also sail
Into the arms of God?

November 14, 2011

Sneak Peek Monday

Thought you might all enjoy a sneak peek at the finished cover of King's Warrior. Excuse me if I sound a little hyper or excited, but I have come to the culmination of two years of very hard work. It has been fun, and it has been gratifying, and it has been satisfying work, but that does not mean it has not been hard, that there have not been tears, that there have not been set-backs.

Last night we had a major set-back, when we realized that the font we had picked for the title was one that was only available for private use, and that buying a commercial license was going to cost one hundred fifty dollars! Needless to say, I cried. (And I felt bad, because Angelina had worked so hard and we thought we were almost finished, only to find out we had to find a completely new font). 

However, Angelina is a miracle worker, and she spent the next two hours working on a new version, and I must say, I love this one as much as I loved the original. Derek says he likes it more, because the old font was (we did not do this intentionally) based on the logo for the Lord of the Rings movies!

Anyway, after all that, the cover was finally complete! I got it submitted last night, and within the next 36 hours I should get the go-ahead to order a proof copy, which means that sometime early next week, I will have physically in my hands the result of all this work we've been pouring out over the past year!

But, of course, the part of this post you're really interested in: what does the new cover look like? Here ya go! :)

Isn't it just beautiful? If you click on it, you can see it larger.

November 04, 2011

Fabulous Friday

The interior layout for King's Warrior is finished and submitted!!!! Happy dancing ensues.

This is the culmination of nearly two year's worth of re-writing and editing that this book, originally titled The Dragon's Eye, has undergone. The re-write started in March of '09 because 1) I got a lot of helpful feedback from other writer's in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and 2) I had finally finished the 4th book in the series and realized that my writing style had improved immensely in 8 years, and that my first book was not at all up to the standard of the conclusion of the series.

All that is left is to get the final cover and upload it to CreateSpace, and 5 days from then I will have the proof copy IN HAND! How exciting!!! Yes, I'm overusing exclamation points, it's ok, I mean them.

November 01, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Nancy

I know she's going to be somewhat embarrassed (and not altogether unpleased) that I included her here, but considering that my mom is the one who taught me how to read and write in the first place, I thought it was important to feature her here in my Tuesday Team member posts. :) And, coincidentally enough... today's post falls on her birthday. (I really didn't realize until I finished writing and got to the scheduling part of this post that it would post on her birthday, but I think it's cool).

At a young age, she instilled a love of the written word in me, both by reading out loud to me and by teaching me how to read for myself, as well as by praying that her children would love reading. Unfortunately for her, she made the mistake of telling me that she had prayed for this, and I definitely used it against her when I was a teenager and she was frustrated that all I wanted to do was read, or that I was staying up too late reading... I distinctly remember saying on more than one occasion, "You prayed for this, remember?"

However, despite having to raise me through my more trying years, she has always believed in me and encouraged me to do my best. Nothing less than my best was good enough, and I'm so thankful she and my dad never let me settle for mediocrity.

I know that the genre I write is not her favorite to read, but she reads them anyway, and tells me she loves them. She gets excited about my books when they are "finished" and in "real book" (i.e. bound) format. Her enthusiasm for my writing, even when it's not the sort of thing she would voluntarily pick up and read if I hadn't written it, means the world to me, and speaks her love in volumes.

October 26, 2011

Where in the World Wednesday

Nothing new to report on the book front today... I am hoping that soon I will have an announcement about the book going to the printer for a proof-copy! And maybe I'll post a preview of the new cover soon, would you like that? Or would you rather I wait until the book is available for purchase?

Anyway, I've been getting some pretty regular visitors to this blog, and analytics is showing that some of you are reading this from rather afar: Turkey, Australia, Brazil... all over the world - which is cool.

So I'm just curious: would you leave me a comment and tell me where you're reading from? I think it would be interesting to know!

I don't know if I'll have a Featured Artist Friday this week... but I have my Meet the Team Tuesday post for next Tuesday all scheduled and ready to go!

October 25, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Brittany

Today's team member is also related to me... because you couldn't tell from the picture... :) Brittany is my sister, and perhaps the biggest fan I have. I know she has read all four of my books far more times than I have, and if she were to become a teacher and give a class on my books, I might possibly fail that class!

Besides being my number 1 reader Brittany is a super-talented artist in her own right as a musician. Together, we are teaming up to turn some of the poems that I have written within my books into actual songs. She has undertaken the task of putting the lyrics I have written to music, and I very much look forward to hearing what she comes up with!

One of the things that is so special about this team and family that God has blessed me with is that we all have particular talents, and it is really fun to see what happens when we weave all those talents together. My words; Angelina's art; Brittany's voice; Derek, Grant, and Evan's business skills... this book is incorporating all of them and I can't think of a project that I would rather work on, than one where not only my work is featured, but all of their talents are featured as well.

October 18, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Grant

Today's team member is my other brother, Grant. I cannot even count the number of times this guy has sent me an encouraging letter or note at exactly the moment I needed it, or the number of times I was ready to just give up on writing altogether and he has said something encouraging or just reminded me by example of why it is important to never give up. Also among my first readers, and the inspiration behind one of my characters, Grant is often my source for new ideas. Once, when I had writer's block, I asked him to read what I had and give me some ideas for what should come next. He wrote me this paragraph:

    “Rambo will take you there.”
    “Oh good I feel much better with Rambo taking me there.  You imbecile why would I let some homicidal ex marine touting a 60 cal take me anywhere?”
    “Well, he’s gotten better.”
    “Oh goood, he’s gotten better.  Now I’m all relieved and like ‘cheerio’ let’s go adventuring.  You’re all da da da da let’s go find Bambi and tell him that flower’s caught the SNIFFLES!  It’s all over the mountain and through the woods from here.  All mai tais and yahtzee eh?  All lead pipe cinch, eh?  All biscuits and gravy? All add the cream and hold the sugar?  Well let me tell you I didn’t graduate out of pull-ups to be bibbed around by some maniacal man suffering from.. from a lot of angst!  All this pubecent rage!  All this teenage mad at my father syndrome. SHAME ON THEM!!!... no... I’m leaving.... and I’m taking the monkey with me!

It wasn't very helpful or applicable to the story I was writing... which had nothing to do with Rambo, machine guns, or Bambi... but it did make me laugh, and took my mind off my writer's block and onto figuring out exactly how many movies he had quoted and strung together in this unique way. After I read it, he did help me brainstorm a little, and what with the laughter, a very different perspective on the world, and a few ideas, I managed to get past the writer's block and on with my story.

Grant is the "ideas guy" - he is my marketing strategist. He is the one who will be planning out my book-signings and book tours, writing letters to schools, libraries, and book stores asking if I can come hold a signing in their building. He is the guy I go to when I need ideas. And sometimes he sends them to me unsolicited, like the fragment of the story I shared on here a while back about the Mirror.

Also one of my very best friends, Grant is definitely one of the people in my life without whom, King's Warrior would never have been written.

October 14, 2011

Featured Artist Friday

Today's featured artist is a gal I have had the privilege to become friends with over the past few months. We have a lot in common: we're both the oldest of four siblings, we were both home-schooled, we're both relocated Northerners, we both love reading/fantasy/sci-fi/movies/board games, we both have a sarcastic/snarky sense of humor, and we're both currently in the midst of writing fantasy fiction novels.

However, the comparison ends there, because her talents far outnumber my own... but I'll let her speak for herself!

Featured Artist: Ally M.

1. When and why did you start (writing, playing, singing, painting, etc)?
The first time I remember writing was when I was about five years old—I had cancer at the time, and had just read a book written by a girl who had also had Leukemia. And I thought, 'Hey, I can do that,' and so I wrote about four pages and then decided it was boring and quit—probably partly because I liked drawing the 'illustrations' (read: crayon caricatures) better than writing the sentences. I think I tried writing sometime before then, but I know I was drawing Peter Pan and Tinkerbell (complete with labels) when I was about four. Singing... well, I tried to sing since I was about two. Then, at about six, I magically learned to carry a tune. Probably because that was when I was enrolled in piano lessons.

2. Which instruments do you play/what is your favorite medium for creating art/what genre do you write? 
My favorite medium? Good heavens, do I have to choose? I suppose that if I absolutely had to choose, I would pick my words. I love the rhythm and beauty of a well-crafted phrase or profoundly understated truth. I really can't pick a favorite genre, though—that's just cruel. I love my fantasy worlds, but I also take a sadistic delight in writing satire and self-deprecating humor,as well as some science fiction and just pure, ordinary fiction. However, if I were as skillful with a brush as I wish I was, I would definitely have to choose oil painting as my favorite medium. I do aspire to be very good at this one day—I took some classes in college that made me see that it's not impossible. I also very much enjoy the freedom of watercolor and the precision of charcoal or colored pencil

3. Is your family musical/artistic/writers? Describe your family members' artistic interests and abilities. 
My family has always encouraged my love of art in all forms—my mom is a talented sketcher and painter (who could be even better if she only had the time to devote to practice) who plays guitar and knows one song on the piano (Stand Up For Jesus, which she has been singing to me religiously since I was an infant). She is also an exceptional writer, and I attribute most of my literary talent to her genetics and teaching. My dad is a conceptual person—he has wonderful ideas for stories, and we have tentatively discussed co-authoring one of his book concepts. He also plays a mean guitar. My brother, Josiah, picked up some artistic tendencies when he was younger, and was very talented, but seems to have left off this particular hobby in favor of debate and engineering projects. Lily, my younger sister by eleven years, picked up on mine and Josiah's enthusiasm for art and is reasonably skilled for her age. My entire family has wonderful voices, including my other brother, Alex, who turned into an impressive bass around age 13.

4. Which famous musicians/artists/authors do you admire? Why? 
Which ones do I... this is not a fair question. Because all my answers are going to be obscure or nerdy. I really admire Tolkien, as well as Keith Francis Strohm (Tomb of Horrors) and David and Leigh Eddings (The Redemption of Althalus, as well as many series), to name a few. However, I have not really read a lot of the 'great' fantasy writers, such as Lawhead, so my opinions are probably incomplete.

5. What are your fondest musical/art-related/writing memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town? 
Some of the best times I have had writing or drawing or singing have been in the middle of nowhere. My fondest memories of journaling and drawing are sitting out in the forts I built in the woods behind my house in Washington, watching a squirrel shear the seeds off of a pinecone and watch me suspiciously out of the corner of one eye. My greatest inspirations are in the wild things, the furtive stirrings in the winds that beckon me to come away, come away, and discover the secrets, the worlds and mysteries yet unknown... magic is always just out of reach...

6. Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD's? Artists? Authors? 
Anyway, I tend to admire a single work more than a single writer/composer/artist... for example, I usually adore one or two songs from any given pop artist and despise all the rest. I admire anything that displays a consummate skill in the medium and/or a consummate mind—that is, that which displays a deeper meaning or truth or insight of the artist, even if I don't agree with it. All that to say... I don't know. I like some of everything. One thing I do love to do, though, is put on music of a certain mood and use it to inspire my drawing or writing—in this case, the artist doesn't really matter so much as the mien.

7. Do you perform/display your art/publish your writing in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV? Galleries? Online? Book-signings? 
I do not perform piano in public if I can help it. To me, it's too prone to error. I did my share of recitals while I was taking lessons, and I practice for months for those. It's a relaxing, beautiful hobby for me now. However, I love to sing for choirs (and I do like solos, because then I don't have to blend and can really have fun with it), and I enjoy displaying my art (only the really good pieces) on Deviant Art or, as was the case in high school and college, in actual art shows. I also post to Deviant Art vignettes and pieces of stories that I haven't actually written in full, but enjoyed or was pleased enough with to want to share.

8. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous? 
Beginners... I still am one! You never feel like you've arrived at 'expert', even if everyone tells you you're the best, you're incredible... it doesn't matter. You will always feel like an amateur. So just go for it. Practice. Suck at it. Practice some more. Read lots of books and look at/listen to lots of people's art—figure out what you like, what works for you, and continue. You will get better. Also, it helps to keep all (or at least samples) of your old work, so you can see how far you've come. It's very encouraging when you can look back and go 'oh wow that was awful!' and suddenly what you've just done seems incredible by comparison. And to everyone looking at it, it probably is. Remember that you are your toughest critic—when you get frustrated, go away for a while and come back. Either the mistake will jump out at you and you can fix it, or you will realize you don't notice it anymore, in which case you can bet no one else will.

9. How often and for how long do you practice? 
Um... people practice? I hardly have time anymore, but one of the best things I ever did for my writing skills was to free-write a few times a week for a half hour or so. It helps 'loosen up' the writing parts of your brain, like warming up before a race. I do sketch quite frequently (and with much frustration), but my skills greatly improve when I do thirty second drawings—taking a small collection of objects, a human form, etc. and forcing myself to capture the essential elements in 30 seconds or less. In highschool I practiced vocals all the time, but now I sing when I feel like it during the week (which is often) and belt it out in church on Sundays. For the record, though, I'm still hopeless at harmonizing.

10. What inspires you to write music? Paint? Write? 
I create art because I can't help it. Once I get into a certain mode, it's like all these truths and beautiful things are threatening to overflow and overwhelm me. It's like chasing rainbows... I simply have to create, or I would explode. My inspiration is not a slow and steady thing—it comes in rushes, pure torrents of need to communicate the things in my mind—to set down on paper the descriptions of what I see, to splash down on the canvas the colors and forms that swirl about those imaginary scenes. These times are usually triggered by a long period of introspection or general reflection, especially if concurrent with a period of time in the woods or by a stream or river. The wilds and the magics of them seem to inspire the greatest, most noble, and most beautiful thoughts. And sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, the characters in my stories seem to press to the front of my mind, demanding to have their stories told. That I don't know what their stories are yet seems irrelevant to them. So I obediently sit down at the computer and begin to write some little detail, and suddenly there are six pages in front of me... it's wonderful... and yet somehow obnoxious at the same time.

11. Describe your process for writing a song/completing a work of art/writing a novel. 
I don't really have a process, unfortunately, so sorry, I'm very little help here. For me, it either comes or it doesn't. There is very little time between conception and completion. If too much time elapses (more than a day or two), the piece is highly unlikely to be completed at all (this also applies to individual scenes in my books, though not the book in its entirety). I have several pictures in my sketchbook that are in the beginning stages of gorgeous, and they're not likely to get much farther. When I write the lyrics to a song, they undergo perhaps one, at most two, revisions before I'm finished with them. The rest of the time, anything I try is stiff and forced. So my artistic life is one of waiting with impatient sighs between periods of inspiration and then scrambling to get everything done while it's there.

12. What is the best part about writing/performing music/art? 
The best part about art is seeing or hearing the thoughts in my mind come to life. I envisioned this tender, beautiful scene, and there it is—real, an actual, substantial thing, even if it is just a picture. Or that wrenching longing I feel, there it is, in a few poignant words, and everything I wanted to know about how I felt is there on the page in front of me. Although I must say that there is one thing that surpasses this, and that is seeing my art impact someone else, especially in a healing way. There is one passage of my (incomplete) book that I wrote in one of those 'white heats' of inspiration that particularly surprised me—and then it turned out to be exactly what three or four of my friends needed to hear. It was a fictitious, fantasy world with a fictitious, fantasy character, but it spoke to them. It communicated to their hearts in a way that not much else could have, and it brought them peace. That is the best reward I have ever had from creating.

13. What is the hardest thing about writing/performing music/art? 
The hardest thing about art is accepting it. I always see the mistakes, the things that should have been tweaked, but are too late to do anything about now. Or I don't know how to fix it—I just know it's wrong. In those cases, it's hard to be willing to show it to anyone else, or to NOT rip it up and throw it away. I have to force myself to file it away to maybe come back to, or to serve as a relic of a less experienced era of my artistic life. And when that happens, it's difficult to move on to something else, fearing the same failure. But eventually you get over it, and move on—and the next one is better.

Thanks, Ally for being today's Featured Artist!

October 11, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Evan

Today's team member is my brother, Evan. He has had many roles throughout the process of my novel's life. He was among my first audience as I wrote the book and our dad would read it out loud to the entire family each night. He and Grant, my other brother, gave me helpful advice throughout that creative process such as, "Can't you give someone a normal name... like Bob?" Or, "I think it would be great if an alien spaceship landed right now and blew up the entire planet." (Very helpful, as my books are fantasy, and not sci-fi... and there are no aliens in my world... but maybe I'll write a sci-fi someday and use their ideas).

He has since graduated from "snarky-adviser" to being my interior-layout-designer, and is putting together what the inside of my book will look like: Fonts, margins, headers, page numbers, all that detail-oriented stuff that I don't have an eye for, or the tools to create here at home.

He is also the logo-designer for our company, and a lot of the driving force behind getting our new company up and running. The company will start out by primarily promoting my books, but eventually we hope to represent my sister's music, Evan's movies, and perhaps even Evan's making of my books into movies. Someday.

But beyond all that, this guy is my brother, and one of my very best friends.

October 04, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Shannon

This wonderful lady is not only one of my best friends, but she is also my second editor, my self-proclaimed publicist, and one of my biggest fans.

I cannot edit my own writing. I just can't. I miss too many things, because my brain fills in what is supposed to be there, and that makes it hard to catch things like punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, inconsistencies, and words that have been accidentally left out.

I could not be as proud of my finished product as I am, without knowing that Shannon has gone over it with a fine tooth comb (and a red pen). She not only catches all my mistakes, but she also leaves me amusing comments in the margins such as "I'm hungry," whenever I mention food, "you're a jerk" whenever I kill a character, and super random remarks such as "I like cheese." These are not only entertaining, but they make going through and fixing the actual errors she caught fun, and more like a treasure hunt than actual work.

Besides all this: she has recommended my book to countless people, included information about my book in her Christmas letters, and just generally encourages me through comments and emails. Thank you, Shannon!

September 30, 2011

Two Things I Never Knew I'd Fall in Love With

I was thinking the other day about certain things I've done in the past year or two that are very "new" and different for me as a writer.

~Writing song lyrics for my musician sister
~Working with my artist sister-in-law on creating a new book cover

Both of these things were never really things I had thought about much before. Sure, I'd written poetry before, and I'd thought that eventually all my books would need covers... but neither of these was high on my list of "things I'd love to do."

Well, these are now both on my list of "things I LOVE to do."


Because writing music and creating a piece of art are both things that I have no talent for. I can't write music. I can't even make up convincing tunes for my 2 year old when she asks me to "sing the milk song" ... a song that, as far as I know, doesn't exist, so I have to make up on the fly music and lyrics for it. This is generally a huge hit with her, but I am intelligent enough to realize that is only because I am her Mommy.

And yet, it is really fun to be a part of both, even if only in small ways. I discovered a year or two ago, that one of the most amazing things in the world is to write a set of lyrics for my sister and then get that set of lyrics back from her on a CD in a beautiful melody, sung in her gorgeous voice, accompanied by various instruments.

What I write is just a poem. What she creates with those words is Music.

With the cover of my book. I gave Angelina a general description of the image I had in my head for the cover. "Guy standing with his back to us, holding a sword. Mountains. Clouds. A dragon somewhere." (ok, I gave her a few more details than that... but not many).

What she painted for me was a masterpiece. An amazingly beautiful, intricately detailed image that looked like she had snipped it neatly out of my imagination and placed it on the canvas.

What I had in my head was just an image. What she created from that image was Art.

And although I'm certain I'm not the easiest person to work with (because, 1) we live 2700 miles apart, and 2) we've gotten into the teeny tiny nit-picky details of font color, and logo placement...) I hope she knows I am only nit-picky about THOSE details because I don't want anything to detract from the painting behind the title.

September 27, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Derek

There would definitely be no writing done in this house if I did not have my husband on my team. Not only does he encourage me to keep writing, challenge me to write new things, and generally support all my dreams of someday being a well-known author... he also helps me with certain technical details in my stories that aren't always my strong suit.
For example, in the midst of all this publishing craziness (recovering, rewriting, and republishing King's Warrior), he has been creating a new world for me to write about. About 6 years ago, Derek started creating a map and a history for a new fantasy world called Aelon Ere. After much persuading on his part, I finally agreed to write a story for this world. I had hesitated to jump in and write the story, because I didn't want to write it "wrong"... you know, since the world/history was his creation to begin with. But he finally convinced me that he had no interest in writing a story, he just enjoyed working on the technical details (the map, the history, and brainstorming with me about what the story should be about, etc).

Derek is my "idea guy" - on a vacation we took into the mountains of Tennessee, we spent most of the drive discussing/brainstorming about what story I should write in the world of Aelon Ere. During that conversation, the history of the world underwent some drastic changes, and the story I could write began to unfold. I have learned from him the importance of getting a fresh set of eyes (or a fresh brain) to work on a problem. He also helps me out with things like battle strategy, and sketching out vehicles/technology (if any exist in a particular world).

I know that I couldn't write without my husband's support. I am so thankful for his encouragement and his enthusiasm for what I do, and for how he challenges me to grow and become better at my craft.

September 20, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Angelina

Apparently I need to do a better job taking pictures of people by themselves, most of my pictures have multiple people in them.

Anyway, today's meet the team post is about my cover artist! This gal is just so talented! I can't wait to post pictures of the finished cover (coming soon!!!) I asked her if she would be willing to design a new cover for my books back around Christmas of 2010, and was so delighted when she said she'd be interested in that.

Over Christmas, I mentioned liking Alan Lee's stuff he did for The Lord of the Rings, so she taught herself how to watercolor and painted me a superb cover for my book. (I really didn't mean she had to use watercolor, as I have no understanding of/preference for art mediums, but that's the sort of attention to detail she puts into her work). The time-consuming part lately has been adding the text and getting the colors/fonts to go well with the colors of the painting. Also, she sometimes forgets to put her name on the back (e.g. "cover art by...") and I have to tell her that it's important to me that she gets credit. :) Especially since I. Cannot. Draw. Really, just ask any of my former students, they'll tell you something about how Mrs. Schmidt can't even draw convincing stick figures. So the cover is DEFINITELY not something I could ever create for myself!

I really just cannot wait to show you the new cover. The original cover was awesome, but there's something about knowing that this cover was hand-painted specifically for my book that is just priceless. And the best part of all this is, Angelina is my sister-in-law! :) So not only do I love her because she's talented and willing to design my cover-art, but I also love her because she's my sister! Having a supportive family is by far one of the most important aspects of my writing process.

September 16, 2011

Featured Artist Friday

Today's Featured Artist is Megan Self. She has a business called "Paint by Letters" and the link there will take you to her facebook page. She is super talented, and I am happy to call her my friend. She did a set of letters for my daughter's room, and they are simply precious, I've included pictures of them at the end of this post.

1. When and why did you start painting?  I have always been artsy and decided on a whim freshman year of college to try painting.  I took one art class in high school, but other than that I'm self taught.  I learned early on that painting people and animals were beyond my talent level, so I started painting natural landscapes.

2.  What is your favorite medium for creating art?  I've dabbled in it all, from drawing to clay to photography, but painting is probably my favorite medium.

3.  Is your family artistic?  All the artistic talent must be in my family's left hands.  The left-handed people are artistic, the righties, not so much.  My sister Jill first taught me to draw people in profile when I was in junior high.  My aunt Carol has done lots of painting.  My mom can do everything and always encouraged my artistic side.

4.  Which famous artists do you admire?  I try to appreciate all art, but I love realism the most.  Sure, that red dot and green drips may represent "The Inhumanity of Society," but all I see is a red dot and green drips.

5.  What are your fondest art-related memories?  As a child, my parents encouraged me, so their walls and refrigerator door were my first "galleries."  
In my ninth grade art class, we had to create an editorial cartoon for a News & Observer contest, and I won first prize for the state.  It was about the new graduated driver's license laws, well, new at the time.
I painted wooden letters for my niece-to-be, Addison, and gave them to my sister at her baby shower.  Two people approached me that day to paint letters for them, which is what first made me think I could sell my artwork.

6.  Who are your favorite artists?  Wow, I'm not sure I have a favorite artist.  I appreciate that Pablo Picasso never grew stagnant with his art.  He didn't say, "Hey, I like painting women with their mouths where their eyes should be.  I guess I'll do this for the rest of my life."  He sculpted, painted, sketched -- he did it all.

7. Do you display your art?  When I began painting landscapes, I gave them away to my family members.  Many of them still have my canvases displayed.  Now that I paint letters for children's rooms, my art is displayed all over, even in Jenelle's house!

8.  What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?  Keep experimenting until you find something you love.  I tried a little bit of everything until I found my niche painting letters for rooms.

9. How often and for how long do you practice?  Being a full-time teacher and painter on the side, I don't really have time to practice.  I experiment and push myself with every project that I create.

10.  What inspires you to paint?  It's a great creative outlet for me.  When I go long periods without creating, I feel antsy, like the art wants to escape from me and I need find some way to let it out!  I find lots of inspiration from my clients' ideas and opinions, as well as room themes.  I have the desire to create, and they give me some specifics to help reel me back in.

11. Describe your process for completing a work of art.  When someone asks me to paint letters for them, I sketch out the letters and decide on a color scheme and patterns for each letter.  During the summers, I try to work on the letters in large chunks of time, often finishing in one day.  During the school year, my projects are a bit more disjointed, working on them when I can find an hour or two.  Though I sketch and plan before starting, my plans often change as I'm working.  

12. What is the best part about art?  For the most part, my clientele are ordering letters for a newborn.  This means that I'm creating something for one of the greatest joys in someone's life.  Often, it's the first thing in the nursery with the baby's name on it.  They're so excited, so happy, and I like to think I had a part in that.

13.  What is the hardest thing about art?  Because I am self-taught, sometimes I have to compromise my artistic vision to accommodate for my level of artistic talent.  The product still looks good, but in my head, I can see what it could have been.  That's tough.
For Leiana's letters, I asked Megan to do a "characters from Leiana's favorite books and movies" theme. I knew basically what she would be painting, but I had no idea how beautiful they were going to be!

September 13, 2011

Meet the Team Tuesday: Jim

Today is my first "meet the team" post. To kick it off, I can think of nobody more important to my writing process than this man: my Daddy. Yes, I still call him "daddy." Really, what girl doesn't? Anyway, without his inspiring me and challenging me to write an entire novel, none of my books would ever have been written. I still find it difficult to motivate myself to write anything he isn't reading.

Much of my love for the written word comes from the memories of my dad reading to us kids every night before bed all through growing up. From "A Wrinkle in Time" to "The Lord of the Rings" to "Lad of Sunnybank" to "The Chronicles of Narnia" to "Choose Your Own Adventure" to "Swiss Family Robinson" we read so many books together as a family. When we were younger, we would beg him to make up his own stories every now and then, and I assure you, a lot of my creativity came straight from him! When I began writing my book, he told me he needed 10 pages a night, and would read them out loud to the family each evening. Those are some of my most treasured memories.

In addition to inspiring me, challenging me to write, giving me ideas along the way, sending me numerous encouraging emails and letters, and being one of my first readers for just about everything I write... he is also my Editor in Chief. He helps me with the content-editing part of the revising process. I send him the finished product and he reads through the entire book, notes any place where I've over-described anything, used the same word too often, or just need to change some of the words, and makes comments throughout. Sometimes he just highlights a portion and says, "I love this," which is always nice to hear/read, too. :)

September 09, 2011

No featured Friday...

Well, I didn't get any bites this week for a Featured Artist Friday... so... I guess no blog post today.

September 07, 2011

What's To Come

I am sorry I have been neglecting this blog lately. I've had a rough time coming up with what to post over here. Since we're now in the "tweaking" stages (finishing the cover, working on the interior layout for the book, etc), there isn't much for me to report on lately with King's Warrior, hopefully I can soon report that the book is finished and ready for purchase.

Until then, however, I've decided to attempt to do 2 posts a week.

1. Meet the Team Tuesdays - a post each Tuesday in which I introduce a member of the great team I have that is making the publication of my books possible

2. Featured Artist Fridays - a post each Friday (or every other Friday) in which I feature a different artist (musician, artist, writer, etc) here on my blog. I'll be posting some questions on my fanpage. If you are an aspiring artist of some kind, and would like to be featured here, email me at: at gmail dot com and I'll send you the questions (or you can go over to my facebook page and see the questions and simply email me the answers).

August 29, 2011


"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." ~ Douglas Adams

Well, the book is edited and ready for interior layout design... which means that the manuscript is out of my hands once again, and with my layout guy.

The cover is 99% of the way finished, with just a few tiny tweaks left.

I feel like I am on the very tippy edge of being able to say, "My book is completed" but I'm not QUITE there yet. The goal, of course, is to have the book completed ASAP so that I can submit it to the publisher and we can start selling copies and setting up book signings and (hopefully) tours even!!! But it may be a few weeks more.

July 20, 2011

Series Name part 2

Okay, a few of you have had a hard time finding the poll I put up on my fanpage. So, here are the options I threw out there. (And again, alternate options are welcomed!)

1. The Minstrel's Song

2. The Second Son Prophecies

3. Forging the Great King

4. The Sword and Mandolin Chronicles

5. The Song of the Minstrel

6. The Minstrel Chronicles/Saga/Series/

July 13, 2011

Series Name

Over on my facebook fanpage I am running a "vote" of sorts for name for the series of books that I have written.

Originally the titles for the four books were:
1. The Dragon's Eye
2. Dawn of the Dragon's Eye
3. Twilight of the Dragon's Eye
4. The Minstrel

I am in the final stages of editing/cover design and will be starting the effort to republish the first book (and subsequently the rest of the series over the next couple of years). I am retitling the four books (well, the first three anyway) as follows:

1. King's Warrior
2. Second Son
3. Ancient Flame (I'm not sold on this one yet, and am still open to different ideas)
4. The Minstrel

What I really need, at this point, is a name for the series. So that inside the book or in small letters somewhere on the cover I can have: "Book 1 of the .................. series/chronicles/cycle/saga/etc"

Check out the poll and cast your vote! (Or suggest a different idea if you don't like any of the options)

July 12, 2011

Character Assembling

I don't do this with every character. In fact, I don't do it with many characters... because most of my characters come to life pretty easily, I feel I know them well enough without creating a physical "list" for them... but in a novel-length story, sometimes it's good to have major attributes of your characters written down in one easy-to-find spot... so that, you know, your main character's hair color doesn't change mid-way through the story because you forgot what it was supposed to be and didn't want to re-read your entire first 50,000 words to figure out what color you had made it, so you guessed... not that that's ever happened to me.


This is a fairly extensive list, and most of the time I don't fill it all the way up, or I change some of the questions to make it more applicable to the genre of story I'm writing. But it's a handy little tool for creating three-dimensional characters. It can also be a good way to come up with ideas for a story if a character without one knocks on your brain and wants to come in.

  1. Name:
  2. Age:
  3. Height:
  4. Weight:
  5. Birthdate:
  6. Birthplace:
  7. Hair Color:
  8. Eye Color:
  9. Scars or handicaps (physical, mental, and/or emotional):
  10. Best Friend:
  11. Enemies and why:
  12. Parents:
  13. Present problems:
  14. Strongest and weakest character traits:
  15. Hobbies:
  16. Kinds of music, art, reading material preferred:
  17. How do they dress:
  18. Description of home (physical, mental, emotional atmosphere):
  19. Most important thing to know about this character:
  20. What is his/her favorite food?
  21. When was the last time this character cried? About what?
  22. What season suits this person best and why?
  23. Do you like/dislike this character and why?
  24. Describe the setting, where will the story take place?
  25. Why will this character be remembered?
  26. Why is this character worth writing about?
  27. Write the first line of the story.

June 30, 2011

The Mirror - Guest Writer

This is a story that I plan to work on soon. It's an idea my brother gave me... he's such a great writer. He wrote up a whole chapter to explain the idea he had. I'm looking forward to writing this story... but I've got to let the idea soak for a bit (and I can usually only work on one new project at a time).

      The whole world looked muffled.  If you’ve ever lived within a University dormitory and had to put your head under your pillow to try and get sleep or if you’ve ever heard a conversation through a wall you would know the feeling.  However, Devlin blinking hard at the hazy surroundings, noted that the world did not sound muffled, it looked muffled.
    Devlin was perplexed.  He was standing in the middle of an open space.  A foreign and unknown open space.  Yet not a moment ago he had known exactly where he had been.  He had been in his hotel room getting ready for the last leg of what had already been an overlong journey home. 
    Slowly, it seemed his eyes were adjusting.  The fog that was either filling this space or filling his head seemed to dissipate.  And yet he remained motionless.  Frozen to the spot in which he had been standing.   It was as if he had woken up only to realize he was still dreaming.  He had been awake he thought to himself. 
    “You’re not dreaming you know.”
    A quiet voice filled Devlin’s head.  Devlin remained motionless.  Then he started.  That had not been his voice.  Nor had it been the voice he often heard within his own mind.  Finally he moved, whirling around on the spot where he had been planted.  There, not five feet behind him, stood another man.  He had his hands behind his back and was looking very relaxed.  However, his gaze was fierce.  It seemed to awaken something within Devlin.  It was as if those flashing gray eyes were the only real things in this place.  It suddenly seemed that this were indeed no dream.
    Devlin spoke hoarsely.  “Wh-What is going on?  What happened to the hotel?”
    The man stood there.
    “Did I fall?” Devlin ventured, rather unnerved at the lack of response.  “Did I pass out or something?  Why can’t I… I mean what is this place?  I MUST be dreaming, no?”
    The man smiled, though it held no comfort for Devlin.  Finally the man stepped forward and held out his hand.  “I am called Olecksander.  If that is too long, you may call me Oleck.  Indeed, our time is too short for lengthy formalities.”
    None of this making any sense, Devlin tried again.  “Well I am Devlin.  Devlin Dukart.  I’m wondering if perhaps you can tell me what’s going on here.  I mean to say, what’s really going on.”
    “I will tell you,” Oleck said firmly.  “But you must not ask any questions or interrupt me in any way for as I have said, our time is too short for this to take any longer than it must.”
    Devlin blinked.  “Whatever, just tell me,” he said quickly in a voice that only thinly masked his growing tension over the oddness of his situation.
    “You stepped through the glass.  You are no longer here.  You are no longer you.”  Oleck’s words were spoken softly but bluntly.
    “What? What are you saying?  In English ple - ”
      “Silence! There is no Time!”  Oleck did not look like one who would suffer another interruption.  Devlin bit his tongue.
    “As I said, you stepped through the glass.  In the world you knew, there are so many of these glasses.  They are everywhere and everyday just about every person steps through one for a period of time.  You know these glasses as mirrors.”
    Devlin, who so wanted to slap himself awake, stood motionless, staring open mouthed. 
    “Tell me something Devlin, wanting only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ of course, have you ever looked in the mirror and not recognized the person you saw?  Or have you ever, upon occasion, had someone, perhaps someone close to you, tell you that you didn’t seem quite yourself?”
    Devlin, still speechlessly confused, only managed a slow weak nod.  He had.
    “Those were all instances of your spirit stepping through the glass.  However, it is usually only a fleeting experience.  Usually the spirit finds its way back to its owner in a short amount of time.  So short an amount of time that the experience of being in this world is so fleeting as to be hardly even noticed.  Sort of like being in the gray of life.”
    Oleck paused, thought for a moment and then continued.
    “You, however, stepped through a very rare glass.  You stepped through the glass of the Vescoranimus.  Now this is very serious.  For this means that when you walked away from that mirror you became the reflection, you became the shadow.  Your physical self is still out there, interacting with the “world;” however, it does so as a mere spiritless reflection of who you truly are.  Have you ever wondered what happens to your reflection when you walk away from the mirror?  Did you think that its world simply goes black?  Wonder no more, for now you know.  Now you have become the reflection and when you walked away from that glass it was your world that went black.”
    Devlin coughed violently.  “So you're telling me I’m in some kind of a realm of the soul or something?”
    “No,” said Oleck emphatically.  “You are not.  This is not a world of soul but of spirit.  But listen carefully, for it is most assuredly your soul that is at stake.  This is the land of shadows, the land within your world.  What you don’t understand is this: the realm of the soul, say heaven and hell in your world’s eyes, is of a truer nature than your physical realm.  But this world is a step down from yours.  To put it simply, our world is to yours what your world is to Heaven.”
    “What are you supposed to be then?” Devlin’s interjection seemed to irritate Oleck less this time.
    “We will get to that,” Oleck said in a measured tone.  “First, I must convey to you what is most singularly important: your very great and urgent need to find yourself.  You see, you are not here on accident.  The Vescoranimus have lured you here for one purpose and that is to destroy you.  Before you ask,” Oleck said acknowledging the questioning look Devlin was giving, “the Vescoranimus are quite simply the devourers of the soul.  They are but shadows themselves of greater terrors.  They lure the spirit, the happiness, the courage, and the heart, indeed the very essence of man into this world; for here it is but a simple task for them to destroy the spirit.  And if the spirit of a man is destroyed, the man himself may follow closely after.  I know this is all very quick.  But I must go fast for, and don’t be alarmed, they are already hunting for you.”
    Devlin stared blankly.  He felt as if a great fog of numbness had enveloped him.

~~~ Written by Grantland Walker ~~~

June 28, 2011

Poetry Corner Tuesday

Snow Phantoms
Under the moon on a clear night
Silhouetted in the starry light
Phantoms spring up, out of the ground,
I tarry, haunted by the sight.

Wraith-like wisps dancing to and fro,
Sliding through the darkness they go
Flitting through imagination;
And prancing patterns on the snow.

Voiceless words hanging in the air,
Phantom cries catch me unaware,
Howls fill the sky, riding the wind
Echoing all around, a dare.

They enchant me, tempt me to stay,
But they also warn me away;
Lean and hungry, the green eyes glare,
 I leave the phantoms to the day.

June 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

This is the first paragraph of a story that's been floating around in my head for a while now - it's a fairy tale ... a bit different for me... though I'm not sure yet just which fairy tale. Anyway, I don't have time to write it right now, as I'm pretty busy with various other projects, but I thought I'd put it out here and maybe you, dear Reader, could leave some sort of inspiration in the form of a comment?


I believe that all this nonsense started with my christening, although some might argue that I was doomed from the day of my birth. I was the youngest child and only daughter of the Chieftain of Alagonia. I had three elder brothers, the youngest of which was fully ten years my senior, and they all doted on me from a young age and probably did their best to spoil me. Had I been any more inclined towards vanity, I probably would have soaked up their attention and been quite intolerable. As it was, I took their regard for granted, but never allowed it to go to my head.

June 16, 2011

Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs - Fantastic Read

Of all the books that I've gotten through the blogging review program, this one has to be up near the top of my list. Some of you may remember the blog post I did a while back concerning why I believe dragons once actually existed? Well, apparently I'm not the only one. This book combines all sorts of facts from history with many legends about dragons with verses from the Bible that indicate the existence of dragons at one time (many of those verses are the same ones I used in my post, which you can read here).

However, all that is not why I love this book. I love this book because it is so cleverly constructed. With text at an elementary or jr. high reading level it clearly explains that dragons and dinosaurs may have been one and the same type of creature, making dinosaurs seem even more intriguing than before. It boasts amazing illustrations that even a very young child will be fascinated by. Beyond that, this book has something fun and "hands-on" to do on almost every page.

Page two boasts a page covered in six little envelopes, each with the name of a different country or realm on it (Babylon, Greece, China, America, United Kingdom, and South America). Inside each envelope is a folded piece of nice, glossy paper. Unfold this paper and you can read about a dragon legend that exists (or existed) in that part of the world.

Turn the page and you get to unfold the page and look behind the flap at some pictures of dragons depicted in ancient art. On the other page you can open a small book-within-a-book and read "Eyewitness Accounts and Encounters" - humorously labelled "Open with Caution."

This trend of opening things, lifting flaps, and unfolding pages continues throughout this short, 22-page book.

The true test? My 2.5 year old daughter loves this book. And although I don't let her play with it unsupervised, it is interesting enough that I love reading it to her. (Even if I just read her a paraphrased version, or narrate the pictures for her).

Many thanks to New Leaf Publishing Group for providing this book for review. They did not ask for a positive review, just an honest one. Many thanks to them for their patience as well, as this review should have been up months ago.

June 14, 2011

Bittersweet Moment

As of yesterday morning, The Dragon's Eye has been pulled out of circulation (there are, of course, still copies available for the moment through amazon, but only a limited number of copies). I went to my account and changed its status to "incomplete" in preparation for the new version.

It was an oddly bittersweet moment. I mean... the version that is out there is nowhere near as polished. It's not as well thought-through. Certain characters are not as well developed. What I've done in the past year and a half with re-writing and editing has really changed the feel of the book. It's still the same story, but there's a lot more depth there now. There's a direction to the book, which makes sense, since the first version was written before I knew the book would turn into a quadrilogy. I did no outlining for the first book, I had no idea where it was going, I just wrote 10 pages every day and let the story lead me wherever it wanted to go. It was a great ride... and it taught me a lot about writing. It taught me the value of outlining... a great author (I can't remember who it was, it might have been Terry Brooks) once said that you'll either do the work at the beginning of the writing process or at the end... but you'll do the work either way. I love the surprise of letting the story twist and turn on its own, I love the not-knowing exactly where I'm going to end up... but I don't love the re-writing that inevitably follows that sort of writing.

I've since learned that your story can still surprise you, even with an extensive outline to follow. In the midst of the writing process, a character may show up where you didn't expect him to be, and you decide on the fly that it's better this way than the way you had it in your outline, and that's just fine.

If I'm honest with myself, now that I've done all this re-writing, I'm a little embarrassed of the first edition. And yet, it's my first edition. The first truly book-length novel I ever wrote. The first book of mine I ever saw in published format. A lot of hard work went into it getting it written, having a friend design the cover and edit it. I will keep a copy of it on my shelf. But it's time to say "good-bye" to The Dragon's Eye, because I've moved on as a writer. I'm no longer a 19-year old college freshman, and I no longer write like one. This book is the first of a quadrilogy, a series of four books in which my writing style improved and grew and in which I found that all-important writer's "voice." I had to do the re-write to get it up to the standard of the rest of the series. Perhaps if it were a stand-alone I could have let it be. But it isn't, so I can't.

I know it's silly. You're sitting there reading this and scratching your head thinking, "Um... am I missing something? Didn't you just edit your first book? It's not like it's gone."


But it is gone, sort of. Although the characters and the story are the same, so much of it is different inside now that it feels brand new to me. The book isn't The Dragon's Eye anymore, it has truly become a totally different book: King's Warrior.

So keep an eye out, because my goal is to get King's Warrior published this fall and into circulation in time for the holidays! (And maybe a mid-West book tour!) I'll keep you posted on the details of all that, never fear.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings. :)

June 11, 2011

Second Picture Story Saturdays


“Oh come on, Gwenny! Please!” We chorused convincingly. “We promise we’ll be right behind you.”
    “Cross your hearts and hope to die?” Gwenny glared at us fiercely, binding us to the deepest oath we knew.
    We nodded and promised. After a few more moments of hesitation in order to make certain of our earnesty, Gwenny grinned and headed carefully down into the darkly yawning chasm. When she reached the bottom she whispered the news of her success back to us and we began our cautious descent. One by one we let ourselves down; the older cousins helping the younger cousins reach the floor without incident. Muffled giggles and suppressed laughter filled the little laundry room and woke up Annie and Dannie, the household Labradors. Eager to join in the fun they wriggled and writhed, wagging their tails and pressing their cold, wet noses into our faces.
    After a few minutes of giggling and playing with the dogs, we turned back to the lower end of the laundry chute. What had been our escape route from the orphanage now became our secret tunnel out of the Nazi concentration camp (at least one of us had seen “The Great Escape” a few too many times). The laundry room with its concrete floor and the dog cages and the “instruments of torture” (the washing machine and dryer) was the perfect spot for our new scenario.
    Going up was much harder than going down. It was like climbing up a tunnel slide that was far too steep, and the sides were perfectly flat and straight and offered no purchase to little fingers and toes. Once again the older ones helped the younger ones clamber up the chute by boosting us up into the opening, and then we younger ones reached down and helped pull the older ones up and out of the laundry chute and back into the closet.
    At long last, only valiant Gwenny was left downstairs. Thinking only of her cousins, she had remained below at the very end to help everybody back up the chute. Now she began her own precarious climb. She got up on the washing machine and tried and tried without avail to pull herself up into the laundry chute. It was all but useless, however, with no one left to give her a boost she could not quite pull herself inside. One of the older cousins, Gayle or Wendy, lowered me down headfirst into the opening by my legs and told me to grab Gwenny’s hand. Terrified of heights as I was, I would have walked through fire and jumped from a plane to help save our courageous Gwenny. We could leave no one behind for the evil orphan keeper or the strict Nazis to find and flog! However, even with my five year old body stretched the length of the laundry chute, precariously being hung head-down by my feet and stretching my arms as far as I could, I still could not quite reach Gwenny’s hand. Our fingertips touched for an instant, but that was all. It was then we realized that it would never work.
    Heads older and wiser than ours would have at that point lowered bed sheets down through the chute to pull our stranded friend up the laundry chute; however, we had watched “Annie” that night, not “Anne of Green Gables.” There was no other choice. In order to return to us, Gwenny would have to walk across the basement, climb the stairs, and run the gauntlet: walking directly through the living room where our parents were gathered. There was no other way around, no way to avoid it, and nothing left to do but accept our fate.
    There were no tears. Gwenny lifted her chin and squared her shoulders bravely as she prepared to face this most terrifying fate. Whispering words of encouragement and support, we watched and waited until we heard Gwenny leave the laundry room. In fear and trepidation we listened and imagined we could hear her climbing the wooden steps on the other side of the basement. Then we heard a stir in the room next to us and the voices of our parents grew louder. We heard Gwenny attempting to explain and then we heard the awful footsteps in the hallway approaching the room where we were supposed to be sleeping. The door opened and our parents looked in on seven little girls lying in bed in a semblance of angelic and innocent slumber.
    Afraid for our very lives, we were more than willing to abandon our valiant comrade to her sad demise. With a stern reprimand, Gwenny was told to get in bed and go to sleep, and then the door closed once more. With a quiet sigh, we cautiously cracked our eyes open and peeked at our beloved cousin. She was glaring at us fiercely.
    “Well,” Kim said timidly, “at least it was an adventure!”
    Gwenny and I often fought and sometimes held grudges, but no one could ever stay mad at Kim for long. Gwenny tried to hold a glower for a moment more, but then she began to shake with badly concealed laughter and broke into a wide grin and bounced onto the bed where we whispered and giggled excitedly until one-by-one we drifted off to sleep, exhausted by a full day of daring exploring and dangerous adventures.

June 09, 2011

June Joke Letter

I used to send out a JokeLetter once a month via e-mail to my family and friends. It was so much fun, and I miss it, so I'll be doing a monthly joke-blog for your entertainment, starting today.

This month's jokes are for anyone who has ever had a college roommate. I remember these used to make me and my college roommate laugh and laugh... I hope they amuse you as well.

Ways to Confuse Your College Roommate
1.Make brown-bag lunches for your roommate every morning. Give them to him/her before he/she goes to class.

2.Every time you enter the room, sit in a chair, lean back too far, and fall over backwards. Laugh hysterically for about ten minutes. Then, one day, repeat the falling-over exercise, but instead of laughing, get up, look at the chair sternly, and say, "It's not funny anymore."

3. Read with a flashlight when the lights are on. Pretend to read without one when the lights are out, remarking every so often how great the book is.

4.Get a surfboard. Put it on your bed. Stand on it, and pretend to surf for about fifteen minutes. Then, pretend to "wipe out," and fall off the bed onto the floor. Pretend you are drowning until your roommate comes over to "rescue" you.

5.Keep a hamster as a pet. Buy a blender, and make milkshakes every day. Then, one day, get rid of the hamster. Make a shake using a lot of ketchup. When your roommate comes in, look at the shake, look at the empty cage, and tell your roommate, "I was curious."

6.Make toast for breakfast every morning, but don't plug the toaster in. Eat the plain bread, looking at the toaster angrily, and complain that the toaster doesn't know what it's doing. If your roommate suggests plugging it in, go on a tangent about fire-safety hazards.

 7.Pack up all of your things and tell your roommate that you're going away to "find yourself." Leave, and come back in about ten minutes. If your roommate asks, explain that you're not a hard person to find.

8.Never speak to your roommate directly. If you need to ask or tell him/her something, go to another room and call him/her on the phone.

9.Every night, before you go to bed, beg your roommate for a glass of water. When he/she brings it, dump it on the floor and immediately go to sleep. If he/she ever refuses to bring you a glass of water, lie on the bed and pretend to be dying of dehydration, making annoying gagging sounds, until he/she does so.

10.Every time the phone rings, turn on the stereo at full volume and throw yourself around the room. If he/she asks about it, say, "Oh, that doggone hypnotist...."

11.Hang a picture of your roommate on the wall. Throw darts at it. Smile at your roommate often, saying things like, "How nice to see you again."

12.Every time your roommate falls asleep, wait ten minutes, and then wake him/her up and say, "It's time to go to bed now."

13.Insist that your roommate recite the "Pledge Of Allegiance" with you every morning.

14.Recite "Dr. Seuss" books, all the time. Eventually, think up melodies for the words and sing them, loudly, directly to your roommate. If he/she tells you to stop, act offended and spend the day in bed.

15.Put up traffic signs around the room. If your roommate doesn't obey them, give him/her tickets. Confiscate something your roommate owns until he/she pays the tickets.

16.Wear glasses, and complain that you can never see anything. Bump into walls and doors. Put your clothes on backwards. Say, "Who's that?" every time your roommate enters the room. When you're not wearing the glasses, act like you can see fine.

17.Buy a lava lamp. Stare at it for hours, imitating its movements with your face. Explain to your roommate that you have established a connection with the spirit world through the lava lamp. Tell your roommate that "Grandma said hi."

18.Keep empty jars on the shelf. Tell your roommate that this is your collection of "inert gases." Look at them often. One day, act surprised and angered and accuse your roommate of having released one of the gases. Cover your nose and mouth and run out of the room.

19.Rollerskate up and down the hallway. Every time you see your roommate, crash into him/her and knock him/her down. Apologize, and say that he/she looked like "the enemy."

20. Get a pet rabbit. At a designated time every day, take the rabbit into the hallway and engage in loud shouting matches. If your roommate inquires, refuse to discuss the situation.

21.Offer to shake hands, all the time.  Immediately afterwards, go to the bathroom and wash your hands for about half an hour.  If your roommate inquires, tell him/her, "Better to be safe than sorry."

22.Use your VCR as a toaster, stuffing bread or pop-tarts into it every morning.  When you eat them, complain that something doesn't taste quite right.  Adjust the tracking on your VCR, and from then on rave about how good the food is.

23.Keep a plant by your telephone.  Every time you enter the room, ask the plant if anybody called.  Complain to your roommate that the plant has been making up wild stories about important phone calls.

24.Get a Pet Rock.  Sleep with it, and read it bedtime stories.  Every night, as soon as you turn out the light, start screaming at the top of your lungs.  Explain to your roommate that the rock is afraid of the dark.

25. Stuff yourself into a big plastic bag.  Tell your roommate that you've contracted a rare case of the Bulgarian Measels, and you're now being quarantined by the Health Center. 

26.Get a sponge and draw a face on it.  Take it to class with you.  Let the sponge help you with your homework.  Leave notes to your roommate from the sponge, accusing your roommate of not living up to his/her academic potential.

27. Trash the room when your roommate's not around. Then leave and wait for your roommate to come back. When he/she does, walk in and act surprised. Say, "Uh-oh, it looks like, THEY, were here again."

28. Set your roommate's bed on fire. Apologize and explain that you've been watching too much T.V. Do it again. Tell him/her that you're not sorry because this time, they deserved it.

29. Bring in potential "new" roommates from around campus. Give them  tours of the room and the building. Have them ask about your roommate in front of him/her, and reply, "Oh, him/her? He/she won't be here much longer."

30. Pile dirty dishes in your roommate's bed. Insist that you don't know how they got there.

31. Buy a plant. Sleep with it at night. Talk to it. After a few weeks, start to argue with it loudly. Then yell, "I can't live in the same room with you," storm out of the room and slam the door. Get rid of the plant, but keep the pot. Refuse to discuss the plant ever again.

32. Complain that your elbows, knees, and other joints have been bothering you. Get a screwdriver, and pretend to "fix" them.

33. Wear scary Halloween masks. Look in the mirror and scream hysterically for about five minutes every time you put one on.

34. Dress like a military officer. Insist that your roommate salute you upon sight. If he/she refuses, insist that he/she do 100 push-ups. Keep saying things like, "Your momma isn't here to take care of you any more."

35. Spread toothpicks all over the floor. Stare at them, acting like you're trying to read something. Tell your roommate it's a message, but you're not sure whether it's a warning about a loved one in danger or a recipe for really great chili.

36. Keep a goldfish in your room.  Watch it for hours, writing down all of its movements and actions in a notebook.  Then, one day, stuff the notebook in the fish bowl, and write down all of its movements and actions on the fish.  If your roommate asks, explain that the notebook is a lot easier to keep track of, and doesn't eat nearly as much.

37. Set your alarm for any time during the day.  When it goes off, immediately go to bed, letting the alarm clock continue ringing or buzzing until your roommate turns it off.  When he/she does, get up and go about your normal daily business.

38. Put an umbrella up, over your bed.  Sleep underneath it at night.  If your roommate asks about it, respond by saying, "A storm's a-brewin'." Then, one night, get a bucket of water and dump it on your roommate while he/she is sleeping.  Get back into bed.  If your roommate asks about the incident, claim that you don't know what happened.

39. Every time your roommate walks in yell, "Hooray! You're back!" as loud as you can and dance around the room for five minutes. Afterwards, keep looking at your watch and saying, "Shouldn't you be going somewhere?"

40. Draw a tiny, black spot on your arm. Make it bigger every day. Look at it and say, "It's spreading, it's spreading."

41. Collect hundreds of pens and pile them on one side of the room. Keep one pencil on the other side of the room. Laugh at the pencil. 

42. Remove the door to your room and mail it to your roommate's parents, postage due.

June 07, 2011

Progress Report

About a week ago I finished my second-to-last edit of the rewrite of "King's Warrior."

I have been doing a happy dance ever since. This was the edit where I one of my editors was going through and checking for redundancies, awkward wording, anywhere I used the same word or phrase too often, and just general clean-up of the re-written story - also, he went through and made sure that everything fit with the other books in the series, made sure that my characters and story were consistent with their future selves.

Next steps:
1. hand my book to my other editor, and have her go through checking for typos/grammatical errors/punctuation mishaps.
2. Go through and fix anything she finds.

Meanwhile: approve the final cover art (not the art, actually, more the text on the cover... the art is SPECTACULAR, I can't wait for you all to get to see it!!!!)

Goal Date: Ready for publication by August 26th. Can we make it? Only time will tell!!!

In other news: our production company FINALLY has a name!!! Woot! Will reveal the new name shortly.

June 04, 2011

Second Picture Story Saturdays

It's time for another excerpt from SECOND PICTURE STORIES...

The Laundry Chute

It had been a long day, and eight little girls who should have been tired were being put in their pajamas and told to go to sleep. Our parents lined us up lengthwise on Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s four-poster bed, and left us with two very simple decrees: go to sleep, and do not, under any circumstances, slide down the laundry-chute. This latter mandate may seem odd, but not when one understands the nature of Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s laundry-chute.
    It was a secret tunnel, a slide, a doorway into the magical lands of…. The Basement. Ok, it was little more than a hole in the floor of their closet that dropped down on top of the washing machine in the laundry room, but to eight little girls all under the age of ten, it was a portal to new and exciting worlds. Sometimes we pretended it led to Narnia, on other days it might lead to another dimension, but tonight it looked even more perfect and tantalizing than ever. The laundry chute must have been somewhat larger than most others I have seen since then, or perhaps we were just that little, but the laundry chute made the perfect sized-slide for us… if you didn’t mind breaking both your ankles upon emerging at the bottom and landing on the washing machine. We never slid down it with reckless abandon; you had to have at least some sort of caution on these sorts of adventures… quests… things.
    As soon as the door closed on us and our parents crept down the hall to go sit around the fireplace and chat, mayhem ensued. We had been allowed to watch “Annie” just before bed, and the story had ignited our imaginations.
    “I get to be Pepper!” Gwenny shouted excitedly (it’s amazing we never alerted our parents to the fact that we were not “going to sleep,” we must have been loud enough to wake the neighbors at least, if not the dead).
    Her announcement was met by more than a few groans and “not fairs!” but she had called it first and there was not much we could do about it. A chorus of little voices chimed up quickly as each of us picked a different character. Nobody really wanted to be Annie, living in a nice house and being taken care of by people who love you? We all had that already; the true adventure was living in a dirty orphanage with an evil orphan keeper and a dozen other rowdy orphans. Starving to death, working our fingers to the bone, dreaming of escape… it seemed quite a romantic existence to our childish opinions. Spurning the idea of being Annie, each of us secretly wished to be just like Pepper: rough, tough, and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
    We danced around on the bed for a while singing, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” at the tops of our lungs. We pushed and shoved and tickled each other and after a very short amount of time our antics erupted into a full-fledged pillow fight. Eventually we collapsed on the bed and the floor giggling hysterically and gasping for breath.
    I don’t remember whose idea it was, but in less time than it takes to say we all became reverently silent. Someone had audaciously suggested that we try to climb down the laundry chute. The closet door was tantalizingly cracked open. Sliding off the bed and pushing the door open even wider we quietly gathered in solemn wonder and gazed at the gaping black maw of the abyss.
    Kimmy and Keri quickly caught onto the idea, “We could pretend it’s a secret passageway leading out of the orphanage!” One of them said.
    “Yeah!” We agreed heartily, the idea seeming far too perfect to be real.
    “Gwenny could go first and then…”
    “No! Oh no.” Gwenny said adamantly, bringing our dreaming to an abrupt halt.
    I couldn’t really blame her, and neither could anyone else. Being the most daring and adventurous of all of us, Gwenny was often talked into doing quite dangerous and risky things merely on the promise that “if she went first, we would follow.” However, we had failed to hold up our end of the bargain too many times for her to be talked into breaking the trail for us without question. On a similar occasion at a previous date, Gwenny had braved the laundry chute by herself, only to find that she had no followers. We could understand her reluctance to repeat such a venture.


Will the cousins venture down the laundry chute? Will they get caught by the evil orphan keeper? Will someone break a leg?


June 02, 2011

Two Book Reviews

I posted this over at my other blog, but figured I could post them over here as well:

Two book reviews

Heaven is For Real - Todd Burpo
Safe in the Arms of God - John MacArthur

I told you a few weeks ago that I had read “Heaven is For Real” by Todd Burpo. It’s a story about Todd’s 3 year old son whose appendix ruptured and who almost died. While in surgery, Colton experienced 3 minutes in Heaven. It was months before his parents realized this, months of hearing their son say strange things, thinking that his Sunday school teachers were really doing a truly exceptional job, and finally realizing that their son had experienced something extraordinary.

He claimed to have met Jesus, John the Baptist (who, apparently is “really nice”), his dad’s grandpa (whom he had never met and never really been told about), and his sister who died before she was born (his mom had a miscarriage they had not told Colton about).

Sounds crazy, right? That’s what I thought. Then I read the book. Skeptically, of course. It is an amazing story. I don’t know if it’s a true story. I don’t know if I believe it. But I’d like to. I’d like to believe that this pastor is not just making this story up. The Scripture throughout the book is sound. The story presents the Gospel, as well as many amazing thoughts about Heaven, as presented by a very young child.

Am I still skeptical? Yes. Do I want to believe Colton’s story, presented in this book by his father? Yes. Does the book make me look forward to Heaven more as a truly “real” place? Yes, in fact, it does.

I recommend it. If you have lost a child, or anyone close to you to Heaven, I’ll warn you now, it’s a tear-jerker of a read. But it is also an encouraging and uplifting read.

The other book I’ve read in the wake of Hope’s death has been “Safe in the Arms of God” by John MacArthur.

While I want to believe the story in “Heaven is For Real” - I find “Safe in the Arms of God” to be far more encouraging. It reads more like a Bible study, although it isn’t. It’s John MacArthur’s personal Bible study that he has done to find Scriptural evidence that babies who die before they are born, stillborn babies, babies who die shortly after they are born, very young toddlers, and people who never mature mentally past early childhood go to Heaven and are safe in the arms of Jesus. It is a short read, it is an easy read (though not as easy a read as “Heaven is For Real”), and it is theologically sound as far as I can tell from what I’ve looked up and read as I studied MacArthur’s study.

This book is the Scriptural evidence for something I have always believed, but didn’t know (because I hadn’t done the Scriptural research) WHY I believed it. Presented clearly, honestly, and with a vast number of Scriptural references (most of which I have looked up myself now and read commentaries on in order to make sure I wasn’t just taking for truth something that wasn’t), this book is definitely something I would recommend to anyone who has had a miscarriage, lost a baby or very young child, or anyone who has a child with a disability that makes it so they will not mature mentally past the capabilities of a young child. All are included in this book (though it focuses primarily on parents who have lost a child). I would also recommend this to you if you know anyone who is in the above categories.

May 31, 2011


This is the map of Grayden's world (the new book I'm working on... I've posted some excerpts of the story before). Just wanted to show you an example of the kind of effort that goes into creating a world before a word is even written!

May 30, 2011

What to Post, What to Post...

I'm trying to get back into posting on here 1-3 times a week. The problem is, I sometimes feel like I run out of content, or I wonder if anybody is even interested in reading anything I post over here? I know I won't get any comments, but I figured I'd throw this post out there, on the off-chance that somebody actually has an opinion and decides to share it...

What would you like to see me write about on here? Is there something I've done in the past that you'd like to see more of? A question (or list of questions) you'd like me to answer? Something you've seen on another blog that you'd like to see me write about (author-related stuff of course)? Something I haven't written about that you'd like me to?

My personal blog is so much easier. I just throw up a picture of my 2 year old and the hits skyrocket! Not that I'm actually all that interested in being read... but in case someone is reading, and would like to be less bored... here's your chance to tell me!

May 27, 2011


Of course, a few days AFTER I post my pictures of who I think could play the characters in my book, inspiration strikes!

We went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides last week, and it struck me that
Astrid Berges-Frisbey
looks far more like the Kamarie I've always pictured than Bonnie Wright.

For one thing, she wouldn't have to dye her hair. And for another, even after being in Pirates, she's still kind of a no-name, she hasn't been in much at all. And, she's got a pretty cool Spanish accent.

Now, she's about 5 years older than Skandar Keynes... but I think she looks younger than she is, and it wouldn't be hard to make Skandar look a little older.

What do y'all think? Bonnie or Astrid?

May 26, 2011

So sorry

I do apologize for my lack of posting/intermittent posting. I'm hoping to be back on schedule soon. I've been sick/had some medical stuff going on, then we had family visiting, and I've been working on THREE big writing projects like the Mad Hatter... so really haven't had the time for posting that I normally have. However, I do promise to get back here ASAP (or at least as soon as life slows back down a bit, if that ever happens!)

May 20, 2011

Meet the Cast of "The Dragon's Eye"

I've seen a few other authors do this on their blogs, and it looked like fun. It's a blog, complete with pictures, where the author "introduces" his or her readers to the cast of his or her book. Bear in mind, that this is the way that I picture my characters. It is the cast I would choose if my book was being made into a movie in the next 1-5 years and if I were in charge of the casting decisions (and had unlimited funds and the ability to ensure each of these actors would say, "Sure! I'd love to play.... in the movie based on your book!"

Alrighty, without further ado... let me introduce you to my characters (just the major ones):

King Arnaud
I chose Sean Bean for this role partially because he has the look I'm going for, and partially because I love him as an actor. (And it'd be nice to see him as the "good guy" for once)

Queen Zara
Dylanna was harder, because I wanted someone who has a semi-ageless look, but who could conceivably be around King Arnaud's age as well. I really liked Elisabeth Shue in "Dreamer" and the role of Zara is somewhat similar to the role she plays in that movie.

The four wizardesses were hard, because I want them to look as though they could be sisters, and yet they have to be fairly different as well. I've only seen Kate Magowan in "Stardust," where she plays a fairly minor role, but she definitely has the right look.

Ok, honestly, this is mostly because I really like Stana Katic. However, I think she has the right look for Leila, and she could easily be related to the other wizardesses.

There has never been a doubt in my mind what Calyssia looks like. As the oldest of the four sisters, I think Michelle Pfeiffer could definitely do her justice (and she has lots of experience playing in fantasy roles). Yes, we did just recently watch "Stardust" but my personal favorite movie with Michelle Pfeiffer is "LadyHawke."

Ok, moving on:

Princess Kamarie
She's always been hard for me to picture in any actress, and I hadn't even thought about Bonnie Wright, but after several people mentioned her I definitely think she comes the closest to any actress I've seen. I think she could also pull off the personality.

I'm still not sure about this one, but I love Skandar Keynes He has experience in a fantasy-esque role, and he has the right look. He's the same age as Bonnie Wright as well, which works quite nicely.

I've looked at a few different options for Yole, but I think Freddie Highmore works the best. He looks younger than Kamarie and Oraeyn, but still old enough that you could believe he could fend for himself on the streets (and possibly end up being a lost dragon).

Much more of a secondary character, but as King Seamas' closest adviser and friend, I needed someone with presence, and with the "look" of the Dark Country. And besides, what's a good fantasy movie without Karl Urban in it?

Alright, on to the Big Three:

Kiernan Kane
As soon as he was mentioned I realized he was perfect. I had thought about James Marsters as well, but I like Paul Bettany better for the role... as I know he can do serious as well as silly.

This one took me a while, but inspiration hit the other night and I realized that Steve Bacic is the perfect Seamas. You can almost believe that he could have been a good guy had circumstances been different... in fact, you probably want him to be a good guy... which makes his journey to the "dark side" all the more tragic. And even better, you can believe he is related to the actor I've picked for Brant.

And last, but certainly not least:

The minute I saw him it was as though my imagined picture of Brant had sprung to life. After watching all 5 seasons of "Angel" I'm convinced that David Boreanaz was born to play Brant. He can do the fighting, he can do the brooding, he can even do the quirky, silent smile that you're never certain you actually saw...