Saturday Stuff

Another weekend is here. Yay! The kids are having a birthday party with their friends this evening. Not so yay.

Actually I’m sure they’ll all have fun, I’m just not sure I will. Winking smile

I’m a lame mom so instead of having birthday parties for each individual child, we have one big party for all of them. In my defense, their birthdays are in June, July, August, and July. And only a few weeks apart (well years apart in age, but weeks apart as to the date of birth—just to be clear). So it got to be too much to plan birthday party after birthday party. Plus, I’m getting older and have less energy. Um, yeah. Let’s blame age. Winking smile So they’ve invited their friends and we’re all meeting at a local pizza place this evening to do birthday celebrations.

Yesterday we made a trip to Gilbert, AZ (which is about an  hour and a half away). We made the trip so we could do some shopping at a bulk store and stock up on supplies. Oh, and get me a little refrigerator for my office so I don’t have to keep going inside when I want a cold one. Bottle of water, that is (I don’t drink alcohol). I may keep a few snacks in the fridge too. Some cottage cheese (yummy), maybe some veggies, and whatever else may strike my fancy. Oh, and maybe I can keep some of my chocolate snacks in there so they’ll stop melting.

Anyway, it was HOT down there in Gilbert!!! Oh my. I was glad to get back to our little part of the world. It was still hot here, but not the blistering, melt-your-skin-off, make-you-want-to-die kind of heat those poor people down in the valley have to live in. I don’t know how they do it, honestly. And then the dust storms they get down there, too? Brave souls, all of them.

When we returned home, we saw lots of wet spots around town. Either giants went through town and urinated everywhere, or it had rained. I’m thinking it’s more likely that it rained. Bummer that I missed it. I really like the rain this year (no, I haven’t always). Maybe it’s because we haven’t had much in the last few years so I appreciate it more. I don’t know, but anywho, I was sad to miss it.

As soon as I’m done blogging, I have to head into town to run some errands. Like mailing off some packages to my son (who is probably suffering more in the heat of Africa than we did in our brief time in Gilbert yesterday). Hopefully the packages will reach him intact. I’ve heard sometimes they get opened and things taken out. And after I mail the packages, I need to pick up the birthday cakes and probably something for lunch for my kiddos.

I’m hoping to get all of this done and still have some writing time before the birthday party. We’ll see if it happens. But I do hope so. I’m just over ten thousand words into a new project I’ve been writing. I was aiming for a chapter book, but I think it’s ending up more on the middle grade side. But it is FUN!! I’ve never enjoyed writing anything as much as I’m enjoying this. Of course, maybe I did enjoy those other writings, and I just can’t remember it. But I doubt it. This project is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time but never did. I flirted with it, but was too afraid it would reject me to actually make a move on it. And then I got up my courage, and went for it. And we’re very happy together.

So having more time to work on it today would be amazing. But, family (and all the errands involved in caring for them) comes first.

I hope you all have a great weekend and accomplish something amazing (even if it’s catching up on your sleep or relaxing).

Write on!

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Saturday Stuff and Recent Reads Review

Happy 4th of July weekend (for those in America who celebrate Independence Day)! It’s been cloudy and rainy. YAY!!! No really, I’m excited about the rain. It’s monsoon season for us here in AZ and we’ve been praying for rain since it sort of got a late start. There have already been forest fires in AZ this season, so we’ll take any rain we can get. Plus, the rain and clouds help cool things down. It hasn’t been as hot here in my part of AZ as it has in Phoenix, but we’ve reached triple digits here and that’s way to hot for me. Of course, I’m a wimp so when it’s in the nineties, it’s too hot for me. LOL

In addition to the benefits of helping keep forest fires down and cooling things off, the rainy weather puts me in a writing mood. I don’t know what it is about it this year, but in years past it hasn’t been this way. Usually the rain is a deterrent for me, making me want to stay inside and read or something, but this year, it makes me want to be out in my office writing. Not a bad thing. I’ve written and revised a couple of picture book manuscripts, started a chapter book/MG (not sure which direction I’m going to take it at this point, but I’m leaning toward chapter book), done some work on writing a past MG that I’d set aside, and jotted down some notes for a couple of YA (one I’ve started in the past and one new one). So, bring on the rain!

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been reading or cleaning house. Believe me, I prefer the reading. Winking smile I recently finished Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. Here’s my review:

As a reminder of my scoring system, I’m using emoticons. Here’s what they mean:

Open-mouthed smile–WOW—I loved this book and will talk/have talked about/shared it with others.

Smile–Not totally in love, but this was a great book and I may talk about/share it with others.

Thinking smile–This was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favorite.

Sad smile–This wasn’t for me. I stopped reading and couldn’t bring myself to finish.

Steaming mad–How did this get published?

If you happen to be the author of one of the books I review, please remember this is my honest opinion. Don’t hate me if I don’t give your book a great big happy grin. I am only one reader in the whole wide readership and I’m sure there are those who’ll love your work—it just wasn’t me.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

RatingThinking smile

The Story—Amy is a girl from Kansas who dreams of going somewhere else to escape a mother who’s an addict, a father who left to start a new family, and a school life that pretty much sucks. So when a tornado whisks her away to Oz, she isn’t too heartbroken—confused and unbelieving for a while, but not heartbroken. But the Oz Amy ends up in isn’t the same one Dorothy left.

For starters, Dorothy has returned to Oz, and that’s part of the problem. Dorothy isn’t the same happy, sweet girl from Kansas that she used to be. This Dorothy craves power and gets power from magic. The magic of Oz is being harvested by Glinda the-not-so-good witch for Dorothy to use as she pleases.

Dorothy has displaced Oz’s true ruler, Ozma, and taken over as queen. She rules with an iron fist, torturing anyone who might get on her bad side. The Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow aren’t what they used to be either, and nothing will stop them from being loyal to Dorothy. Well, almost nothing.

Amy is “recruited” by the Wicked—the witches formerly good and bad who have banded together against Dorothy. Amy’s job? To assassinate Dorothy. But will she be able to do it?

My thoughts—First of all, I had seen this book in my local Wal-Mart. It sounded interesting, but I had no intention of picking it up. My oldest daughter, on the other hand, did pick it up and asked me to buy it for her. Who am I to deny the child reading material? So I did buy it for her. But then I had some doubts and told her I needed to read it first (that’s how I am—I try not to let my kids read things unless I’ve read and approved them first). So I took it that night and read most of it, leaving off when I was so tired I couldn’t take it anymore. I picked it up early the next morning and finished it, returning it to her before she had even crawled out of bed.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to let her read it because it has a few “f-bombs” in it. It seemed to be contained to the beginning of the book, but I could have lived without them, and don’t like my kids reading such things. So, even though I love books with all my heart, I will admit to taking a pen and inking over the bad words (gripe at me all you want, call it censorship or whatever, but it was either that or not allow her to read it at all—which I’ve done in the past).

But the “f-bombs” alone aren’t enough to determine rating. I’ve given great big happy faces to books that used the “f-word” before. So why the lower rating? Many reasons. This book was LONG. I enjoyed the concept, and there was lots of excitement, but it was all basically set up for future novels. I know, I know, the first book in a series is always set up, but it should also contain it’s own complete story. For me, this one just didn’t. The ending was too abrupt. Ending right in the thick of things. Yes, she had accomplished a task that needed accomplished, but it wasn’t until the end of the book that we found out there were things she’d need to do first before she’d be able to kill Dorothy. Yeah. Like I said, this was all just one big long set-up—kind of like a super long prologue.

Still, I did enjoy the concept, and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll probably pick up the rest of the series, or at least the next book to see how it comes along. Hopefully the next book will be the last one though. I can’t see dragging it out over more than one novel. At least I hope not. I want it wrapped up and concluded—I like closure.

So that’s my opinion. I liked the book. I didn’t love it.

Write/Read/Weekend on!

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Friday Fatigue

What was I thinking? About ten months ago (or so), I decided it was time for me to lose some weight and get in shape. Too many years of sitting at my computer eating junk food and fast food meals finally caught up with me. I found myself about 25 pounds overweight. I downloaded an app on my iPhone to track the calories I eat (wow, what an eye-opener—it’s the MyFitnessPal app, btw) and some other apps to help me get fit (mostly walking/step counting like Striiv). A couple of months ago, I even purchased an UP band (and downloaded the app)—it sits on my wrist and tracks my steps, but more importantly, my sleep.

What have I learned? I don’t get enough sleep (not surprised), but I do average more than most women my age (not telling how old I am cause I already feel older than I am). I quickly lost about fifteen pounds, but then stalled out. I’ve stayed around the same weight since then and it’s been a struggle to take off those last ten pounds.

Okay, I have never been a big fitness nut. I DESPISE exercise! No, really. It’s an eight letter word (that’s twice as bad as a four letter one, right?). But I figured I could walk a little more. You know, park further away from the doors in parking lots, walk to the mail box to get the mail. Little things like that. And it was working for me. Until it wasn’t. So I decided I needed a bit more help. One day, my UP app kindly suggested I try getting more exercise and offered a couple of apps as options. I decided to check them out. I downloaded the FitStar app. It wanted me to do a fitness test. So it sat there on my iPhone for almost a week. A little while ago, I decided I could do the test.

Yeah. The jumping jacks for forty-five seconds weren’t too bad. The elbow planks (45 seconds) and plank to downward dog (10 reps) almost killed me. I could barely hold the elbow plank for about 20 seconds before I had to stop. Then the kneeling push ups. Oh my! I made it through (there were only fifteen), and the bodyweight squats (10 reps) were no problem. The final thing was the split stance back extensions (15 reps) and they weren’t too horrible either. I felt pretty good, even though I was out of breath (yes, I’m that out of shape that these six minutes made me breathless).

I plopped into my chair here at the computer (didn’t even put away the yoga mat I was using to soften the wood floor) all ready to get on with my writing day.  And now my body is screaming at me. “You fool! You fool! What have you done?” And I’m like, “Body, chill. You forced me into it. If you would have lost the weight walking I wouldn’t have to do this.” And my body responds by sending messages to my brain that I need to go back to bed and sleep. I’m refusing to give in. I’m the boss here, right?

So I’m tired and my body really, really, really wants me to go back to bed, but I’m going to push through it and see if I can get some writing done on a MG or YA today. I’m hoping that my body will eventually stop whining at me, and that I’ll get used to somewhat regular exercise as well. I don’t plan to do this kind of a work-out every day at this point, because, let’s face it, I’d probably die. But I hope to work my way up to some kind of a daily exercise routine (in addition to my continuing to walk). Hopefully that will help me shed these last ten pounds and feel better about myself! And if I’m not so tired and depressed, I’m sure it will help my writing motivation (with which I’ve also been struggling during the school year). At least that’s what I tell myself.

What about you? Are you as out of shape as I am? Do you have an exercise routine? If you do exercise, do you find it helps you be energized or does it make you want to crawl back into bed and pretend it was all a dream? Winking smile

Write/exercise on!

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Thursday Thoughts

It’s June. Yeah. So much for being better at blogging. *sigh* So, since my last post in February, I’ve read MANY more books. I also got my kids through school. In addition to that, I sent my oldest child off to Africa (Ghana) in April (he’s serving a mission for our church). It’s been a crazy, busy time. But now it’s summer! This is my time, right?

I really hope so, but since school ended (May 30th) things have still been crazy. My youngest daughter had an appointment with her neurologist in Phoenix yesterday. The car started acting up on the way home so it’s in the shop today (still don’t know what’s wrong with it or how long it will have to be there). The kids have dentist appointments on Monday, and then my two girls go to camp on Tuesday (they’ll be home on Friday), so there’s trying to get everything bought and packed for that. Yeah.

However, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to have some good writing time over the summer (I mean, here I am blogging today, after all). But once the summer break is over (July 23—yeah short break, darn it), things will be back to crazy town again. My youngest is doing the online school thing again next year. My second daughter might be as well, so it’s likely I won’t have much time for blogging/writing once school starts.

Even though I haven’t had much time for blogging/writing, I have had LOTS of time for reading (at night—I know, I COULD have been doing my writing at night, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it after a day of school with my son and then the household things and the crafting I’ve been doing to sell in the local shop—yeah excuses, excuses). In addition to my reading novels, I also read MANY books on writing. One that really stands out to me (maybe because it’s the most recent read) is Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James.

This book was a HUGE comfort to me. I’ve been struggling for years to find MY way to write. I’ve tried many different methods over the years, and thought I’d landed on MY way to do things, only to find out I was wrong. The 3×5 index card method seemed to be “the way” to go, but I’ve discovered that once I get the story all plotted out on the cards, I have it out of my system (for the most part) and don’t feel the urgency to get it written anymore. I tried the Three Act Structure, the Four Act Structure, the Plot Clock, Save the Cat, writing the Synopsis first, and pretty much anything else I came across. I even purchased software that I thought would help (and I do still like the NewNovelist software). But nothing has.

Then I read Story Trumps Structure and felt SOOO much better. I’m thrilled for those writers who are able to use the three act structure, four act structure, 3×5 index cards, etc. for writing, but it doesn’t work for me. And that’s what this whole writing thing is all about. Every writer is different, so it makes sense that writers write differently too. I think I’m a combination of writing a logline or at least having a beginning and knowing where I want to end, and then letting the book unfold organically. Steven James tells us to focus on what lies at the heart of the story—that is tension, desire, crisis, escalation, struggle, and discovery—in order to write a story that will resonate with readers.

There are WAY too many helpful things (at least for me) in the book to go into here, but let me say I highly recommend you all read it. Even if you are a lover of the three act structure method, or plotting or whatever other method you may use, you will find new and amazingly helpful ideas in the pages of this book! One of the most amazing things for me was the concept of The Ceiling Fan Principle. It’s the fist chapter in the book and an amazing place to start. In essence it all boils down to not asking what happens next in the story, but asking what goes wrong.

So “this happened” and then “this went wrong” which led to “this happening.” What goes wrong is what the story is all about. It’s what builds tension and keeps readers turning pages. We don’t want to read about what goes right for a character (at least, not usually), we want to know what went wrong and how they worked through it until the next thing goes wrong and they have to work through that and all of it leads to the moment when the character finally has something go right and is able to overcome the adversity/antagonist in the story.

Yeah. That first chapter was a light bulb moment for me. And it just kept getting better from there. Here’s a breakdown of the chapter titles so you can get a better idea of what this book is about.

Part one: The Essence of Story

Ch 1: Desire: The Ceiling Fan Principle and What it Means for Storytellers

Ch 2: Orientation: The Eight Aspects Every Story Opening Will Include

Ch 3: Crisis/Calling: Story Origins, Resolutions, and the Three Levels of Struggles

Ch 4: Escalation: Adding Complications and Weeding Out Repetition

Ch 5: Discovery: Crafting a Satisfying Climax

Ch 6: Change: How Situations and Characters Are Transformed by Conflict

Part Two: Secrets to Organic Writing

Ch 7: Responsiveness: Eight Secrets to Discarding Your Outline to Write Better Stories

Ch 8: Emergence: The Three Questions That Will Solve Every “Plot Problem” You’ll Ever Have

Ch 9: Awareness: How Context Determines Content

Part Three: Story Progression

Ch 10: Twists: Practical Steps to Pulling the Rug Out

Ch 11: Promises: The Keys to Building Suspense and Satisfying Your Readers

Ch 12: Scenes: Mastering Setbacks, Interludes, and Subtext

Part Four: The Narrative Forces That Shape Our Stories

Ch 13: Causality: How the Contingent Nature of Stories Affects Every Sentence You Write

Ch 14: Believability: Removing Coincidences and Sustaining Belief

Ch 15: Expectations: Working with Overlapping Genres

Ch 16: Continuity: how Narrative Momentum Carries Stories Forward

Ch 17: Fluidity: The Interplay of Pace, Flow, Narrative Time, and Flashbacks

Ch 18: Polish: Touching Up Your Story

Ch 19: Dilemmas: Creating Moral Quandaries for Your Characters

Ch 20: Meaning: Telling the Truth About the World

Part Five: Subtleties of Characterization

Ch 21: Status: What No One Is Teaching You About Characterization

Ch 22: Attitude: Quirks, Idiosyncrasies, and the Difference Between Intention and Motivation

Ch 23: Depth: Revelation Vs. Transformation

Part Six: Plot Flaws and How to Fix Them

Ch 24: Incongruities: How to Tackle Problem Spots in Your Fiction

Ch 25: Gimmicks: Common Traps Authors Fall into and What to Do About Them


WHEW!! Yeah, so many AMAZING things in these pages. Seriously. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! These were the things that really stood out to me: the Foreword by Donald Maass, all chapters in part one and part two, chapter thirteen, chapter sixteen, chapter seventeen, chapter nineteen, chapter twenty, and chapter twenty-one. All of the chapters were helpful in some way, but some of the stuff in other chapters I’d already learned.

And with the help of this book, I think I’m starting to discover MY way to write. It’s a combination of planning (basically just knowing what I want to happen—even though it may not be what actually happens as I write it) and letting the writing happen organically.

Another helpful book on writing is Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell. I won’t go into that one here, but it did open my eyes to a few possibilities as well.

While I may not sit down to do any actual writing today, I plan to solidify MY way of writing. Figure out the best of all the things I’ve been reading and discovering a way to make it all work together in a way that helps me succeed as a writer.

How have things been going for all of you? Have you found YOUR way of writing? What works for you? What doesn’t? Share with the class so we can all learn from each other. Winking smile

Write on!

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Monday’s Muse

My calendar says it’s February. And not only is it February, but it’s more than halfway over.  Calling my calendar a liar and ranting and raving that it must still be January did no good. It’s still February and it’s still more than halfway over. Stupid calendar.

In truth it’s not my calendar’s fault—time doesn’t stand still for anyone else so I suppose I can’t expect it to stand still for me either. At least not until I finish that time machine I’m making out of empty water bottles. Yeah. Then time better watch out!

Okay, back to reality. Even though it’s almost over, I didn’t miss February’s wonderful offerings. There was Groundhog Day—which I spent watching the Super Bowl. It seemed Denver was so depressed at the thought of six more weeks of winter, they forgot they had a game to play. Really, with the way winter has been slamming some parts of the country, I can’t blame them.

A few days ago was Valentine’s Day. Hubby and I went out to dinner—after which I wasn’t feeling well. It wasn’t dinner’s fault. I’ve been fighting a bug for the last few weeks and it finally snuck up on me when my defenses were down. So I’ve been curled up in a ball fighting the illness ever since. I’m feeling a bit better today, but not well enough to go with hubby and the kids to visit family in Flagstaff. So they went to play and enjoy Presidents’ Day (which they don’t care about other than the fact that they get a day off from school). And I’m here. Out of bed, sitting at my computer, writing this blog post (which may or may not make sense depending on how much of a fever I have at the moment).

While feeling lousy isn’t fun, it did give me time to lay in bed and read. And, oh, did I read! I used my Kindle App on my iPad to read some of the books I’ve had on there for a while, and some I purchased during my illness. I read The Space Between and Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, Cress by Marissa Meyer, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Enders by Lissa Price, and Writing in a Nutshell  series by Jessica Bell. Then I got out Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for another read-thru.

I enjoyed every one of the books I read. If I were feeling more up to it, I’d post reviews of every one of them. But I don’t feel up to it, so I won’t. But I did completely enjoy being transported out of my sick bed and into worlds of vampires (Coldtown), serial killers (Valentine), Purgatory (Space Between), Outer space and a plagued earth (Cress), body/mind snatchers (Enders), and writing advice (Nutshell). I recommend all of them.

And the reread of Bird by Bird was just what I needed to feel inspired and wanting to get back to writing. I haven’t wanted to write lately—and when I have, things have been to crazy busy to allow me the time. But the reminder in Bird by Bird to write at least 300 words a day seems more manageable. I can find time to write 300 words of something each day, no matter how crazy it gets. See, this blog post is more than 300 words and I’ve managed it!

There are many other muse worthy things in Bird by Bird but for today (because this blog post is wearing me out and I still want to see if I can get 300 words done in my WIP before I have to crawl back into bed), let me just post these inspirational words from the end of the book: “. . . if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

So let your words be your lighthouse, standing there, shining. Maybe they’ll save a boat someday. Maybe they won’t. But they’ll be there. Shining. Just in case.

Write on.

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Stuff on Saturday

It’s the end of the first week back to school for the kids. It didn’t go so well, and I ended up having sick kids on Thursday and Friday. They’re doing a bit better today so hopefully they’ll be back in school on Monday.

I did sign up for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12. I first heard about it at my local SCBWI conference last October (Danielle Smith, Agent) mentioned it as a great resource for picture book writing. I checked it out when I got home, but by then the year was almost over and the sign-up was closed. The goal of 12×12 is to write one picture book draft manuscript each month in the year so it made sense that I couldn’t sign up in October. But it’s a new year and a new sign up (you have until the end of February to sign up if you’re interested). I’m hoping to get a lot of picture book knowledge to expand my horizons and improve my work—as well as some picture book drafts I can revise and continue to work on.

I think this is going to be a great year. Of course every year is a great year, but I have high hopes for this one—hopefully I’m not disappointed. Winking smile

How have things been for you so far in 2014? Any new adventures or plans for this year?

Write on.

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Tuesday Times

Whew! The holidays are over which means the madness of making stick horses, beaded bookmarks, and fabric totes is over. It was crazy with all the crafting—not to mention the baking and shopping and wrapping presents. I love the holidays, but I’m also grateful when they end. Which reminds me, we need to take down the Christmas decorations today. Yeah—I can totally understand why some people leave their lights up all year round. It’s a pain to put them all up and then take them all back down again. Or maybe I just have too many decorations. Nah!

The kids are back in school (except for the one who stays home and does online school), and I’m finding time for my writing again. Yay!I don’t have as much time as I’d like, but I’m carving out some time each day (so far—the year just started, after all). It’s great to be able to immerse myself in my characters and worlds and be creative without sitting at the sewing machine or table where I construct my bookmarks.

And speaking of creative. I’ve come across some awesome software for writing. it’s New Novelist 3. I’m loving getting to know this program (very user friendly) and writing with it. It doesn’t really work for my picture book manuscripts, but it is called “novelist” for a reason. It works great for my novels!

I’ve revised a couple of old picture book manuscripts and am looking into signing up for 12×12 (by Julie Hedlund—info can be found here). I think it will be a tremendous help for my picture book writing (and basically my writing in general). I’ve also been writing on a MG manuscript that waited very impatiently through the holiday madness.

And then there’s my poor neglected blog. I hope to do better in 2014 with keeping things updated, but it’s become painfully obvious to me that I’m terrible at it—and twitter and other social media for that matter. It’s partly because I don’t have much time for social media—at least not if I want to be productive on the writing front. So, I’ll do my best and pop in here when I have something to say or a book to review (which I need to do soon since I’ve read a couple I want to review), but don’t hate me if my posts are infrequent or lame (like this one).

How was your holiday season? Are you glad to be back to “normal” now that it’s over?

Write on!

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Monday’s Muse–Recent Reads Review style

I know it’s Monday and this really should be a Monday’s Muse post, but I just finished reading this book and feel compelled to take today to post my review. And, really, this read was so inspirational to me that it’s perfect for a Monday’s Muse post anyway.

As a reminder of my scoring system, I’m using emoticons. Here’s what they mean:

Open-mouthed smile–WOW—I loved this book and will talk/have talked about/shared it with others.

Smile–Not totally in love, but this was a great book and I may talk about/share it with others.

Thinking smile–This was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favorite.

Sad smile–This wasn’t for me. I stopped reading and couldn’t bring myself to finish.

Steaming mad–How did this get published?

If you happen to be the author of one of the books I review, please remember this is my honest opinion. Don’t hate me if I don’t give your book a great big happy grin. I am only one reader in the whole wide readership and I’m sure there are those who’ll love your work—it just wasn’t me.

On the menu for today:

BUTTER by Erin Jade Lange

RatingOpen-mouthed smile

I’ve been living in a dark cave or something, so I hadn’t heard about this book until I attended the SCBWI AZ conference earlier this month. I picked a break-out session at the conference where Erin Jade Lange and her agent, Jennifer Laughran, talked and answered questions.

When I heard the premise of BUTTER, my first reaction was something like, are you kidding me? Why on earth would someone want to read a book like that? Followed instantly by I wonder if he really does it. Hmm. Maybe I want to read it.

Lucky for me, there was a bookstore at the conference. I bought a copy—and finally found time to read it. Good thing I waited until I had “time” because I couldn’t put it down.

The Story—From the title, you’d think this was about food. And, in a way, it is. Butter is the story of an obese teen boy who decides to eat himself to death over a live internet feed. He sets a date of New Year’s Eve. He isn’t sure what he expects to happen—maybe sympathy, pity, insults. Instead, Butter gets morbid encouragement—and fame. His schoolmates are cheering him on.

Now he’s sitting at the popular table and going to parties. But the down side is that his new “friends” expect him to go through with the plan. However, now that Butter has what he thinks he’s been missing—a life—he isn’t so sure he wants to die anymore. He’s faced with a tough choice. Go through with the plan to eat himself to death, or give it up and lose his new popularity.

There’s also another side to this story—a romance. Butter likes a girl from school. And she likes him—well, the online persona he creates anyway. But will she be able to like the real him?

And who is the real Butter anyway?

My thoughts—First of all, for those who, like myself, don’t like the “F” word in their literature, be aware that BUTTER does have a few “F-bombs” in it.

Now that that’s out of the way, I have to say, I’m blown away by this book. Butter’s story is so compelling and so gut wrenching (yes, I cried—okay, bawled) that I had to give it a big fat smiley face.

Every teen should read this book. Every parent should read this book. Every grandparent. Every teacher. Every. One.

Erin Jade Lange took the topics of cyber-bullying, bullying in general, and teen suicide and poured them into a character and story so achingly real that I found myself wanting to call the authorities to save him. I’m telling you, this book is one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever read. It resonated so deeply with the teen inside me that I’m going to be thinking about it and talking about it for a long, long time.


Read on.

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Monday’s Muse

I had an amazing weekend. One full of inspiration and awesomeness! And it’s all because I was able to attend the annual SCBWIAZ Welcome to Our House Conference.

The faculty was amazing! I threw out a few highlights on Twitter, but really, there was so much to absorb, that I’m still pouring through my notes (and wishing I could have recorded it because I just know I couldn’t write fast enough to capture it all).

Still, what notes I did manage to scrawl are full of amazing insights. Now I’m ready to pour myself into writing. Unfortunately, I still have other obligations. Like my eighth and fifth graders who are doing online school and are home all day needing my assistance. And then my sixth grader who comes home and needs help with her homework. And dinner and washing clothes and all that other “mom” stuff that needs doing. *sigh*

But, I’ve made a plan. Starting tomorrow (when they all have school again), my two at home are getting up at about 9:00 and we are going to get through school by noon (let me dream, people—let me dream). Then I’ll have about two hours to write before I have to go pick up my sixth grader from school and get started on her homework (I’ll find some time to eat something in those two hours—I hope). And on those miraculous days when sixth grader doesn’t have homework, I’ll be able to have more writing time before dinner. As for the cleaning stuff, the rest of the family is just going to have to pitch in more. Winking smile

This is my plan. It probably won’t work, but my main point is that I’m going to find ways to adjust things so that I do have more writing time. Because I haven’t been writing every day or even once a week—sometimes two weeks go by—and I need to get back into it. I miss it (and I’d like to pretend that it misses me).

On a totally unrelated topic, I’ve been using an app called My Fitness Pal to log my daily calories. It’s been eye opening! I’ve been watching how much I eat and have started exercising (because when I exercise, I burn calories and can eat more LOL). And just by doing this—and eating less of what I normally eat—I’ve lost 8 1/2 pounds over the last couple of months!

So, what has inspired you lately?

Write on!

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A Very Gloom-y Giveaway

I had planned to start this giveaway on Monday, but then the whole gearing up for WriteOnCon thing happened. The conference was amazing, by the way, and, if you are a writer of children’s literature, be sure to check it out (you can still read the posts and watch the videos even if it’s not “live”).

Okay, excuses made. Time to move on to the giveaway (cause that’s why you’re here, right?)!

If you read my review of book three, you know I love the Gustav Gloom series by Adam Troy-Castro. This MG series is amazing. Just the right amount of spooky for young readers (and not so young ones, too). And the quirky voice and characters have won my heart.

Because I love this series so much, I want to share the love! Thus the giveaway.

I’m giving one lucky winner the first three books in this series (because there are only three out at the moment):

Gustav Gloom and the People Taker

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Gustav Gloom and the Nightmare Vault

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Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors

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The pictures don’t do justice to the awesome covers. There’s a little “window” cutout on each one that hides the inside picture. Here’s a pic of the third book’s cover that I took with my iPhone (I didn’t take pictures of the others—well, you can see a tiny glimpse of book two peeking from under book three):


Cool, hu?

In addition to the three books, I’ll also load some other surprise spooky prizes into the box before I ship it out.

What do you have to do to enter the giveaway?

Leave a blog comment letting me know what spooks you. And then check the box on the Rafflecopter form saying that you commented (you’ll have to click the link and it will take you to the site because I couldn’t get it to post correctly here). That’s it!

Of course, if you want extra entries (they’ll open up on the form after you’ve completed the comment requirement), there are other things you can do; such as be a follower of my blog,  follow me on twitter (@justJoanS and you can do this once a day so tweet daily for more entries), share links to the giveaway. But those are optional. So click on the link and get to entering!!

Book Love on!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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