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

Product Details

Gustav Gloom and the Nightmare Vault

Product Details

Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors

Product Details

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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Gustav Gloom and The Four Terrors—Recent Reads Review

It’s time for another book review (hopefully I’ll start posting these more frequently)!

As a reminder of my new 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.

Gustav Gloom and The Four Terrors by Adam Troy-Castro and Illustrated by Kristen Margiotta

RatingOpen-mouthed smile 

I first learned about this series when I went to a writing conference last year and attended a session where the lovely editor, Jordan Hamessley,  spoke about it during her presentation. I went to the bookstore immediately after the session and picked up a copy of Gustav Gloom and the People Taker (book one). And I was hooked! There aren’t enough words to describe how much I love this series! It’s spooky and quirky and incredibly amusing in places. The voice sucks me right in and keeps me reading—well, the voice is helped by the masterful way the author ramps up the tension.

The Story—After having been through two incredible adventures with her half shadow best friend, Gustav Gloom, Fernie What is forbidden to enter Gloom Mansion. In fact, if her safety obsessed father has his way, they’ll be moving. But before they can go, Gustav Gloom asks Mr. What for a favor—nothing dangerous, he promises. He just needs help rescuing his father from the Dark Country.

There’s a certain shadow inside Gloom Mansion who has information that will help Gustav rescue his father, but the shadow will only talk to Fernie. Reluctant to allow his daughter to enter a house he considers extremely dangerous, but feeling sorry for Gustav, Mr. What strikes a bargain. He will allow Fernie to enter the house as long as he comes with her and as long as they can turn back if Mr. What decides it’s too dangerous.

Gustav agrees and the family enters the mansion (Fernie’s sister insists on coming, too). On their way to speak with the shadow, things go horribly wrong. Fernie’s father and sister are captured by escaped convict shadows—known as the Four Terrors (and “terrors” is putting it mildly). It’s up to Fernie and Gustav to rescue the captives—but they soon discover the Four Terrors aren’t working alone. And the “boss” is a formidable opponent they may not be able to defeat.

The combination of Adam Troy-Castro’s words and Kristen Margiotta’s illustrations guide the reader on another amazing adventure through the Gloom Mansion. I can’t wait for the next book!!

And because I love this series so much, I want to share the love. I’ll be posting a giveaway on Monday in which one lucky entrant will receive the first three books in this series. That way, they can join the rest of us who are anxiously waiting for the next book!

Read on!!

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