Brave as a Dancing Chicken

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Sometimes I’m a chicken.

In college, I actually narrowed down my choice of majors to those that didn’t require public speaking 101.

Bawk.

 

quaker steak chicken mascot

 

 

That chicken with the big grin is my 14 year old nephew. In public, he’s mostly a quiet kid.

But it’s interesting what happens when you put a quiet kid in a chicken suit.

 

 

Braver than he thinks? Maybe.

I could’ve used a chicken suit a couple of weeks ago when I spoke on a panel about the creative life during an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) event.

At least just to start out. 🙂

 

 writer's panel SCBWI_opt

Because I was having an out of body experience nervous. I can’t really remember anything I said, but hey, I did it.

(I’m pretty sure I spoke from the heart , it was practically in my throat anyway).

I was also nervous about the authors fair and book signing. But that turned out to be fun.

 

meeting authors

 

I met national book award winner, Kathryn Erskine. She’s super sweet. She signed a book for me and then even came over to my table and bought one of my books!!

 

book  fair_opt (I just realized I picked a table next to the fire alarm. Panic much?)

 

The book fair wasn’t so scary. Writers (and readers) may be a quiet bunch, but everyone was friendly.

 local-authors-fair_opt

Sharon Rainey, Richard L. Towers, Nancy Hannan

 

I chatted with authors. I signed some books. I’m pretty sure I didn’t squawk or bawk once.

I’m braver than I thought.

Even without a chicken costume.

 

How are you feeling brave (or strong, or smart) this week? Would you have more courage dressed in a chicken suit? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to know!

Happy Monday!

 

 

Reading Gives You Wings

bird book cartoon

I’m spreading my wings!

 

This weekend I will be participating in a local authors fair at Cascades library in Potomac Falls, Virginia.

There will be bunches of SUPER cool author peeps.

 

Super cool author peep, Kathryn Erskine.

 

And books and book stuff.

 

YA book swag

 

And coffee, I’m sure. Although, I should probably switch to decaf.

 

drawing on Starbucks cup

Me + Caffeine (and/or nerves) = Doodles

 

I’m grateful, excited, nervous, but also very CURIOUS. 🙂

 

Are you spreading your wings? How do you calm your nerves?

Happy Wednesday!

 

Pepi the Dog & the Million Little Things of Friendship

Today I am happy to have a very special guest here: Alarna Rose Gray.  Alarna describes herself as an aunt, animal lover, and writer.  To me she is also a new friend.

AND she has a brand new book!

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Hello Pepi: A Toy Dog is for Real

There was a little puppy

 With a coat of raven silk,

A lightning splash upon his chest

And paws of peppered milk…

 

Hello Pepi is the first book in a wonderful new series for children young and old.  It is about the special friendship between a toy dog and his most important person.  The verse is smart, sweet and wonderful to read aloud. The illustrations make me nostalgic for the picture books from my childhood.  In short, the books made me smile.

Pepi is also based on a true story.

Here is that inspiration in Alarna’s words:

Hello Pepi is a collection of memories that form a fictional narrative of the life of one small dog.

But not just any dog.

Pepi was a dog that burst onto the scene of my life in a most unexpected way.

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Pepi, Age 1

I had no intention of getting a dog. My flatmate at the time had suffered a terrible loss and wanted to get a puppy. Although between us we already had four cats!

 

We took a long drive across the city to the other side of town, and it was as we stood in the living room of a European lady that the magic happened.

He was a tiny black and white fella who made gentle cooing noises as I held him in my palm.

 

My flatmate had chosen his brother, the runt of the pack, and not wanting to separate the two, I made a snap decision to take the puppy home. Who can resist the cuteness of a little dog who quacks at the sight of you?

And this is where the reason for my writing the series came about.

 

It’s a common story. We fall in love with pets because we’ve bred them to be cute for us. But sometimes we don’t realise what that decision means.

At the age of eighteen / nineteen, having a dog, in particular, made me feel grown up and independent – that idea of being responsible for another living creature who you take out into the world with you.

Then the reality comes in. They need to be fed. Walked. Bathed. Cleaned up after. Trained. Not to mention all the very costly vet bills.

Little dogs, in particular, are quite high maintenance. They might be small, but they make up for it in energy, and (quite often) noise!

I’m a very quiet person, and can also be impatient. So the two together meant that I was in for some ride with Pepi!

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Pepi, age 2 

It really wasn’t until someone close to me pointed out how clever he was, that I truly began to appreciate his energy. And that’s the bittersweet tragedy of having pets. I don’t think we always appreciate how much they know, or what they give us… until it’s gone.

He suffered something similar to a stroke at fifteen. Even at that age, people in the street thought he was still a puppy, because he was so small, and full of energy. But he was never quite the same after that. He started slowing down. He got dementia. That’s when I decided to chronicle his life and spirit in verse.

He loved having the story read to him. He was a very musical dog, and the rhythm of the rhyme made him jump up in excitement. He knew it was about him, and he’d talk back as I read aloud.

Pepi Age 2b_opt

And that’s it, really. I wanted to share the joy of the experiences I had with him, as well as the lessons that I learned. My puppy parenting was far from perfect. But he always knew he was loved, and never held that against me. Except when I forgot to give him treats. Then he held a grudge . 🙂

Little dogs are also much maligned. People think they are stupid, or blame them for provoking their bigger dogs into a fight. But there’s a lot more to them than that. It just requires us to see the world a little through their eyes…

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story Alarna.

The first three ebooks are available on Amazon here.  But in celebration of the launch of her new series and the wonderful spirit of Pepi and friendship, Alarna would like to gift the first book to YOU.

So if you’d like an ebook of Hello Pepi #1, simply leave your email in the comments before Monday, December 10th.

Have an amazing weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eleven Questions and Evidence from my Writing Cave

 

Game time!

The awesome YA author Fabio Bueno tagged me in the Eleven Questions game.

The rules:

1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions on your blog–or if you don’t have a blog, feel free to answer in the comments! Then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3.  Tag eleven people and link to them.
4.  Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Here are Fabio’s questions and my answers:

What is your favorite historical period and why?

Probably the Tudor, because of all the drama surrounding King Henry VIII.

List your top five favorite movies.

The first 5 that come to mind–When Harry Met Sally, Pride & Prejudice, My Cousin Vinny, The Sandlot & Rat Race

Your house is on fire. Your loved ones–humans and pets–are already safe outside. They have your driver’s license and a flash drive with all your backups (files and all the media you own). You have time to save one more object. What would you get?

A box that has notes to me written by my kids.

You can invite any three people in the world for a dinner–anyone alive. Who are your guests?

Funny people–like Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig

Congress/the gods/smiling extraterrestrials said you can only have one type of food every meal for the rest of your life (they’ll supplement your diet with vitamin pills). Which food would you choose?

If it’s aliens, they probably have a thingamabob to zap away my food sensitivities, so I’m gonna say pizza.

In an episode of “Friends”, they all reveal their freebie list: Who are your 5 celebs?

Ian Somerhalder, Jimmy Fallon, Rob Lowe, Jake Gyllenhall, Ryan Reynolds

(Huge spoiler alert.) Some people think the Hunger Games is bloody. In Harry Potter 6, fifteen characters die. In HP7, the body count is over fifty (see here). JK is rewriting the series, and she let you choose one character from any of the seven books to get a reprieve. Who would it be and why?

I can’t choose! Cop out I know, but I’m not messing with HP.

What’s your worst fear?

Being unable to keep my kids safe.

You can choose your own nickname, with an assurance that no one would ever mock you. Tell us your choice.

Since I’ve changed my first and middle names legally before, I don’t want another name 🙂

What’s the best vacation you have ever had?

Family road trip to Niagara Falls and points in between.

 

Hiking in the Finger Lakes region, NY

Congress/the gods/smiling extraterrestrials said you must move to any fantasy or sci-fi setting (books, movies, videogames, rpgs) of your choice—permanently. Where would you go?

I love the setting in the movie Mama Mia!

Thanks to Fabio for the fun questions!

And here are my 11 questions for you to answer on your blog (or here in the comments if you don’t have one):

1.  What 3 books would you take with you into your zombie apocalypse/alien invasion bunker (I’m assuming you all have one)?

2.  What was your first job?

3.   What song is stuck in your head right now?

4.  What celebrity would play you in the movie about your life?

5.  What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

6.  If you could go back in time for one day, what time would you revisit and why?

7.  What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

8.  What’s your favorite movie snack?

9.  What TV show is most like your life?

10.  If you could get on a plane right now, where would you go (all expenses paid)?

11.  If you could tweet to your 13 old self, what would  you say?

 

Anyone can play, but I tag:

Sophia Chang

Lisa Hall Wilson

Marcy Kennedy

Stacy Jensen

Sarah Pearson

Myndi Shafer

Jennette Marie Powell

Ruth Schiffman

Catherine Johnson

Emma Burcart

April Plummer

 

Oh and I also got tagged with the Lucky 7 meme by Catherine Johnson and Debra Kristi.  It’s been bouncing around the blogosphere for weeks and it’s been awesome reading bits of everyone’s WIP (work in progress).  The rules  are:

 1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP

2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

 

I’m not going to tag more people–I think everyone has been tagged anyway!  But I will play along–so here’s a bit from my current YA Contemporary WIP:

 

     Liquid seeped through the neckline of the tank under my jacket and I shifted, noticing the open beer bottle Kyle had apparently left at his side.  I picked it up, holding it for maybe a little too long, enough to feel that the label was missing a corner–probably from Kyle picking at it.

  I moved the bottle to the floor. 

  Kyle stretched and opened his eyes and when he saw me he turned and scooted closer until we were face to face.   “Hey, you’re back,” he said as if I’d just stepped out to pick up take-out food.  “You’re head doesn’t look any smaller to me.”

  He pressed a palm to the top of my head, checking for psychiatric shrinkage, and I smiled.  I couldn’t help it, I felt missed. 

🙂

Have a spectacular weekend!!

 

Life is Better When You Share It

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To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.
― Mark Twain

 

Laughter, books, smiles, knowledge–these are just some of the things that have the potential to take on a whole new level of awesomeness when you get to share them.

That’s what these amazing friends did when they shared their awards with me:

Amanda over at BornBookish.  She is a college student sharing breathtaking book covers and reviews.  Plus she has the scoop on intriguing words like xanthophobia on Word Lover Wednesdays.

Sophia Chang says she’s Tiger mom tested and approved–and I believe it since she’s a YA writer who has found success in acting, modeling, and singing (and graduating from Harvard), but underneath all of that is a sparkly, kind heart.

Tameri Etherton is a writer who says she wishes she was born a fairie princess.  Well, if sweet and generous are the criteria, then she already is one!

The first words that come to mind when I hear Prudence MacLeod‘s name?  Strength of spirit!  Read her posts over at her Valkyrie Rising blog and you will think so too.

Debra Kristi says she is just a girl with a story or two to tell, but take the time to read one of her Immortal Monday posts and you will see the amount of time she puts into entertaining and informing–and all with a smile.

Stop by their blogs and say Hi!

 

If YOU have something to share, please tell us in the comments!

Got a book or a blog you want to talk about?  Or maybe someone did something awesome for you that you want to share?

I would love to hear it.

Oh and please stop by Catherine Johnson‘s site on Tuesday–she has a special Valentine’s surprise to reveal tomorrow!

Have a happy one!

The Indefinite Future of Someday

 

 

At the start of last year, blogging and social media were not on my to-do list, let alone part of any resolution, but they were something I imagined I would do someday.

You know, someday, the indefinite future.

As in someday I will travel to Italy and Greece, or someday I will use that trapeze school gift card (yes, I really have one of these).

Or maybe someday is dusting that stupid cobweb at the top of the family room ceiling fan–you know what I’m talking about, the one that can’t be reached without stopping to get a step stool or a broom.

So time goes by and that cobweb starts to dangle, it may even mock you a little by blowing in the breeze of the fan as you sit on the couch, but still you ignore it, push it off until the indefinite future, and then one day it’s gone.

Must’ve fallen off you think, some point between Masterpiece Theatre and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills . . .

But what if  left unchecked, that cobweb bans together with others of its kind, and is lurking close by . . . a giant, zombified dust bunny of regret?

*cue Psycho music*

Indefinite inaction = Dustus Bunnicus

Then again it’s only dangerous if that action was something important.

Like say fulfilling a long-standing dream.

So when the idea of building an author platform presented itself last year, I thought, But I’m not ready . . . someday my blog will come.

But I was curious, so I Googled and researched and read Kristen Lamb’s books We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and the next thing I know . . .

Domain.  Blog.  Twitter.  Facebook.  I was out there.

And yes, it was way out of my comfort zone and not what I had planned, but then again:

 

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

–Jane Austen

 

Now okay I cringe a little at the words “foolish preparation,” because let’s face it, I am really more of a planning kind of gal. I like neat stacks and files and research.  I don’t just hop on Amazon and buy something without researching it first (well, mostly–beware of that tricky Amazon 1-click setting.)

But even neatness and research can backfire and turn into Preparatory Procrastination.

Who knows what evil lurks behind clean desks and brand new notebooks?

 

Anyway, procrastination aside (please!) being out there was kind of the point, unless I was writing all those stories for the dust bunnies.

 

 

Maybe blogging is only a part of the dream, but the funny thing is now that I’ve gone and done it, well it makes the rest seem like it’s right there within reach.

Like a sparkling, clean ceiling fan.

I just need to go and get that step stool.

 

What someday is dangling over your head?

 

 

Gettin’ Lucky

Last week I got a Tweet telling me I won another book, which brought my book winning total in the last couple of months to seven.

My husband told me it was time for me to play the lottery, because apparently I was experiencing a lucky streak.

“Luck affects everything; let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” -Ovid

So, luck is success born out of chance, not just something indigenous to the Irish.

IRELAND, LAND OF THE LUCKY.

Although my father in law once handed me cash just because I was standing next to him in a casino when he won. He said his good fortune was due to my presence ie,“luck of the Irish.”

Still I may need to rethink the “I’m Irish” heading on my next batch of queries.

But luck is more than just a matter of chance. In fact I think the real clue to luck in Ovid’s quote is: Let your hook always be cast.

Because luck usually requires some effort.

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Thomas Jefferson

Seven books didn’t just fall out of the ether. There was a little work–I entered contests.

Although I did get one of the books from the very generous author Barry Lyga, simply because I’m a blogger.

Or Irish (I’m kidding, Barry Lyga is not profiling Irish writers).

No, the real reason Barry sent me a book was because I saw one of his Tweets that read something along the lines of Free books to bloggers!

So while “art depends on luck and talent,” as Francis Ford Coppola once said. It also requires effort like Thomas Jefferson so wisely put.

Like say spending some time in a casino, sidling up next to the Black Jack table wearing my VIP badge, Very Irish Person.

Or, entering that Breaking Dawn premiere contest.

Maybe.  But I do know that I can’t win if I don’t try.

I’ve got to put in some effort if I want to see Taylor Lautner -–uh, I mean the older actor who plays Bella’s father.

A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck. –James A. Garfield

Do you think some people are just lucky in life?

Drop me a comment below and you could win a SIGNED copy of Barry Lyga’s GOTH GIRL RISING (result determined by random, or is it?)

***Congrats to Karen McFarland who won last week’s giveaway of WHAT WOULD MY CELLPHONE DO?***

Warm Fuzzies Blogfest

This week has been a week of warm fuzzies (plus a giveaway–see details at the end of this post).  Special thanks to my fellow writers in Rachael Harrie’s platform building campaign and in Kristen Lamb’s WANA class. From your supportive comments and tweets to blog awards I feel like I have my very own virtual, but cozy Linus blanket.

Thank you!

On that note, wonderful and brilliant YA author Juliana L. Brandt is hosting the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest and this week she posed this question:

” How do you broach the subject of being a writer to other people who aren’t authors?”

It’s not always easy, like Juliana writes in her post.  Here’s a post I wrote a couple of months ago on the subject:

SO HOW’S THAT NOVEL COMING?

The writing process is slow. Couple it with the publishing process and the fact that writing is mostly a solitary living-in-a-shell like activity, and you are looking at a lifestyle that is turtle club worthy.

At least it comes with a great motto:

Slow and steady wins the race.

This is a good thing to keep in mind, especially when you emerge from your shell for food, showers, more work (you mean there’s other stuff to do?) and seeing your family and friends only to hear questions like:

You still working on that novel?

Do you have an end yet? Because I have a really good idea…

When am I going to see it in Barnes and Noble?

What’s for dinner? (Oh wait, you may or may not get that one, depends on whether or not your kids are old enough to call for pizza.)

When I hear these questions, my mind scrambles for some sort of summary update, sifting through all the work looking for something that is akin to handing them a hardcover copy of my book.

Um, yeah.

You write. You read. You edit. You write some more. You put the story away for a while and start work on another. Then you pick it back up and read. Then you edit, write some more. Then get some people to read and comment and then edit some more. Then write a query letter and edit that, and get some people to read that. Write. Edit. Then send it out to agents and/or some small publishers (because the big ones will not look at it without the agent). Wait and wait. Work on the next story . . .

I am going to stop here because if you are a writer you know all this, and if you’re not, then you are probably wondering why anyone would actually comply with such a process.

It sounds crazy, right?

It’s a slow process. Turtle-y slow.

So I remind myself to take a chill pill when I get the questions, because yes I’m still working on that novel (actually two, both with endings, but you never know I might use your good idea someday).

(Oh and the dinner question? Only requires microwave skills, because the pizza is in the freezer.)

And as for Barnes and Noble (or Amazon)?

I don’t know–YET (this is the key word here, print it, cut it out and attach it to something).

Because if you love it, you do it and when the questions come, you can think about Stewie.

Yes, I give you Stewie. Because sometimes I just need to relax about the whole process and squeak out a laugh instead of taking myself too seriously. Besides, as Stewie says, we all deserve some time off (even if we sometimes let our kids eat pizza from the freezer).

Speaking of pizza, if you’re headed to the freezer can you get me some? It’s the gluten-free one, with the tapioca cheese . . .

 

Have a great weekend.