Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let's Talk About It

Yesterday at the athletic club, as I was sitting outside the pool area waiting for Soph to finish up with her swim lesson, an elderly man came in and sat at the table beside us with a cup of coffee. Pretty soon he was joined by about 6 elderly ladies, some in swimsuit cover-ups. Apparently, several of them were waiting for a lane to open up in the pool so they could go swim. I must say I was glad they came in because they were very entertaining.

In twenty minutes they talked about Ethel, who apparently slipped on the locker room floor. She was fine, assured the grey haired lady in the know, but very embarrassed. That led to the discussion of the slippery floors in the club. Many chimed in with their opinion of where the floor was the worst.

The ringleader, I call her that because she seemed to start and finish each topic of conversation, then asked about one of the woman's husband. The lady told the group her husband was still grumpy, nothing has changed. Chuckles and nodding.

Slowly, the topic changed to Michael Jackson. The ringleader would throw out questions like, "Do you think they'll find drugs in his system?" to "Have you seen his children? They are really cute without their masks." Usually, a few ladies would chime in their comments. All would nod and then they'd move on.

It was fascinating really, the dialogue between this group of women and one man. The elderly gentlemen didn't say much. Not sure if it was because he'd turned down his hearing aide or maybe it was because he didn't have anything to add. Whatever the reason, they all sat there for 20 minutes talked and then all got up to leave. It seemed like a ritual they went through on a daily basis.

This got me to thinking about the dialogue in our stories. First, the dialogue helps us to get to know the characters. I didn't know any of these women, but after 20 minutes I had learned their opinions on several topics. Second, I thought about the topics these 70 plus individuals discussed. Some of the topics I might discuss with my friends, but the answers came with a point of view of someone who has seen much more than I have seen in my lifetime.

I guess it just really made me more aware of how individuals in my book talk. How important it is to find the voice of each character and make sure it rings true to their background, age, and experience. What are some things you do to make sure your character has an authentic voice?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Photo Contest

U-Printing is sponsoring a summer photo contest. So of course I had to get out the camera and submit a photo. I'm not the photographer in the family, but I can capture some fun moments.

Forget Sugar and Spice, frogs are for girls!

I know it's summer when my girls start hunting for frogs and toads. At any given time they may have 8 or 9 floating around in their little pool that they have captured and are watching. They save them from the dogs in the backyard and run through the house yelling "Toad, I've got one!" as they make their way to the front door. This year Little One joins in the fun without any hesitation. She's known to have one in each hand as she walks around the yard. This one she named Croaky. They spent the better half of the afternoon together.

I've titled it "Forget Sugar and Spice, frogs are for girls!". What would you name this picture?

Head over to U-Printing for your printing needs. UPrinting.com is a leading online provider for business cards and enlarging photos.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Long Weekend

I'm going to leave my computer behind for a few days. Instead I'm going to concentrate on finally having some relaxation time with WB and the girls. Plus, we are celebrating the new ordination of one of our dear friends with some of our old friends from college. And I get to see one of my buddies from high school. I'm expecting to have a glorious weekend.

If you are needing some interesting reading check out my friend's post over at Smockity Frocks. She has links to a totally, unbelievable and very disturbing story about a young woman and her scams. Very, very sad really.

I'll be back Monday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

They Put The Security Tags In The Darnest Places...

Today I went shopping while Em was at a pottery camp. Soph, Little One and I headed over to the very swank and upscale boutique of TJ Maxx. Anyplace where you can pile clothing into a plastic, squeaky cart seems to be my kind of place these days. Now, before anyone accuses me of being sarcastic, which I never am by the way, let me say I'm serious. A cart is a very nice thing to have when you are tired of chasing a two year old around the store and telling her to "look please, not touch" no less than twelve dozen times. Put child in cart with a book or whatever she just pulled off the shelf along with the heavy tote bag you carry as a purse. The purse is hot pink with green dots by the way. Just another accessory that screams, "I'm a Mom with a child in diapers!".

So we wheeled the squeaking cart across the store to the dresses, but before we could shop Soph decided we needed a bathroom break. Then Little One decided to try, with no success. Don't ask her though because she will always respond to the question "Did you go?" with "Just a little bit". I never argue even though it is obvious she didn't go even just a little bit, it's the trying that counts right?

Back over to the dresses. I pick one up, like the colors, like the price even better and turn to put it in the cart. Soph looks at the dress and then at me and asks, "What's that shirt doing in the dress section?" Quickly I hold very cute dress up in front of me and realize it hits 4 inches above my knee. I glance up at the sign over the rack and it says JUNIORS. Ahhh, that explains it. I take this time to explain to Soph that it is really not very modest to wear such a short skirt, no matter what the age. I'm hoping she'll skip those teen years all together actually.

Creaking over to the Misses dress section I'm relieved to find dresses of a more appropriate length. Soph picks out a very pretty one and guess what, the skirt of the dress goes to my ankles. See she took my little chat about modesty to heart, bless that child. So we throw a few more things into the cart and race across the store to the dressing room. The cart is now full of clothes to try on, but is minus a toddler. She is skipping across the store yelling "Pretty, pretty" as she points to everything she passes.

I am a little upset that the largest dressing room is occupied. I hear the voices of two young women commenting on colors and hemlines behind the dressing room doors. I listen to them giggling as they twirl about in that spacious room as I cram myself, Soph, and Little One into a stall about 2 feet wide. But it's okay because I can try on clothes in record time. I've learned this from having three children and a husband who highly dislikes shopping. I try on Soph's dress and because of the lack of zippers or buttons it's a little bit of a struggle getting it on, but once it's on it fits very nice. The cut is sexy enough for my husband and modest enough for my children. Folks, I don't know about the rest of you women, but for me that right there is a winner. Almost enough that I wouldn't care what it costs, almost. The problem comes when I try to take off the dress. It has these twisted crisscross straps in the back and right smack in the center of the straps they have the security tag. You know, the big ugly plastic thing that is filled with ink. The one you shouldn't let your very curious 6 year old play Macgyver with.

So there I am in the snug little stall pulling and tugging, trying to get the dress off. Every time I wiggled the tag dug itself into my back. When I shimmied it pulled tight onto the straps so I couldn't slip my arms out. I thought of asking the dour faced woman at the entrance to the dressing room to take it off, but the fact that she counted my items twice before going in and then eyed my purse-bag suspiciously I was hesitant. She'd probably think it was some sort of evil plan to thwart their security system.

Taking a deep breath I try again and whack my elbow on the wall behind me. Ouch. I dare to glance over at Soph. One look and we both burst into laughter. Little One, not wanting to feel left out, stops trying to peek under the next stall and begins to laugh. Her laugh is the throw your head back, scrunch up your eyes and nose, deep belly laugh. This of course makes Soph and I laugh even harder. Somewhere in this hilarity I am actually able to slip the dress down and off my body. Thank you, I'm free.

But all this makes me wonder who is the person that puts these security tags into place. They always end up in the very worst places. I won't tell you what happened when I tried on a swimsuit with one of those things attached. Well, it just wasn't pretty. And sometime it's really hard to imagine the outfit without the tag when its sitting dead center on your chest.

If you are a security tag pinner I'm just asking if you'll please think of us before you shoot that tag onto a garment. Please.

Oh, and by the way, I splurged and bought myself a purse. A real, honest to goodness purse. There is nothing bag or tote about it. No pink, no dots, no pull out diaper changer. I can't wait until the day I get to use it.

And if you have any shopping horror stories, I'd love to hear all about it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cadillac Ranch

Copyright Scott Flathouse
There is a man here in Amarillo, who is, well eccentric. He does some neat and crazy things around town like street signs with quirky sayings that pop up in people's yards. Or a giant statue of a leg made to look like an artifact out in the middle of nowhere. WB took a picture of this and they published it in Texas Highways. His place of residence is called Toad Hall.

Anyway, one day he decided to collect some old Cadillacs and stick them in the ground. Yes, stick them in the ground so that they are pointing upwards towards the vast Texas sky. It's out in a field that sometimes has cows grazing about. There is a cattle guard and visitors are welcome to walk out and look and they can even spray paint the cars. I can only imagine the thousands of layers of spray paint each car is covered in.
copyright Scott Flathouse
I take this tourist attraction for granted sometimes because we pass in every day when we go back and forth into town. But there are always cars stopped and visitors walking the trail to explore the cars. In fact, it is a game with my daughters to try to catch the place with no visitors. I think we have counted a handful of times that there have been no people there. It doesn't matter if the wind is blowing dirt or the temperature is 110, people have to stop and look.

Copyright Scott Flathouse
WB went out to take some pictures the other night when he thought the sky and light were just right. Remember what I said about photographers and their light? Well, it's true.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Character Interview

Sometimes a daunting task when writing is getting to know your characters. Making them come alive, instead of just being a cardboard figure. I constantly study people when I'm out. I watch their facial expressions, body language, and speech patterns. Part of this comes from my psychology background and part of this comes from the fact that I am just naturally curious about what makes a person tick.

When I sit down to write a story I need to really know my characters beforehand. If I don't, I risk giving my readers a cardboard cut-out of my character or worse an unbelievable character. In a class I took titled "Writing The Great American Novel", which was taught by Dee Burks, I was given this form for interviewing my characters:

Character Role:
Birth Place/Year:

Hair color:
Eye color:
Style of Dress:

Characters Background:
Internal conflicts:
External conflicts:
Biggest Fear:
Worst experience:
Mis. Notes:

Doing this with each main character really helps me to get to know my character before I sit down to write.

How do you get to know your characters? Any tips on building that 3-D character as opposed to the cardboard cut-out?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Organizing Your Story

I've been thinking lately about organizing my drawers, closets, garage, and maybe even my desk. I've even got two magnetic dry erase chore charts all filled out on the fridge for my oldest girls. I know, I'm getting a little giddy from this sudden burst of organization. Which got me to thinking about my writing. I've been dusting off all my old papers and books that have been sitting on my shelf for the last two years. I'm still getting back into the swing of things after my little sabbatical/pregnancy leave.

I found a neat outline in my notes, that helps you to organize your writing. I was always hesitant to fill it out because my plot sometimes took unexpected turns. But my writing friends said, "Just fill it out. Write it in pencil and you can always go back and change things". So I have. It is a great way to get your thoughts and ideas organized. This outline basically gives an overview of your plot and characters. On Thursday I'll share how I get to know my characters.

Story Element********** *Hero *******************Heroine


Goal: what does the
character want?

Internal Conflict (emotional
baggage; the basis of the character

Why do they have these goals?
Or why do they have these
internal conflicts?

External Conflict?
What is the plot?

Inciting Incident

1st turning point


3rd turning point




This little form helps me to get started on my story and really ask myself the questions that need to be answered in the book.

So what about you, do you have a favorite way to organize your story? I'd love to hear how everyone goes about planning their plots.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Chicken Post

"Momma, Momma! Ms. L is going to get a bunch of chicken eggs for our class and we are going to watch them hatch", Soph exclaims as she throws herself into the backseat of the van after school. "Then we get to take them home. Can we take one home?"

I'm about a sentence behind, my sluggish brain not able to keep up with her rapid speech.

"Um, well okay. Not to keep, but for a few weeks", I respond hoping this will be the answer she is looking for.

It is. Her smile is wide as she turns to Little One and begins telling her all about chickens.

Luckily, my parents are visiting when the chicks hatch. My mother, who was raised on a farm, remembers chickens from her childhood. She helps us set up the aquarium with heat lamp and newspaper for bedding. It is at her suggestion that we bring home not one chick, but two. To keep each other company, my mom explains.

We end up bringing home Cookie, a black chick, and Sugar a yellow bare-necked chick. Ms. L calls it a turkin (half chicken and half turkey), but the people at the feed store said it was a bare necked chicken. Either way, it is alarmingly ugly with the feathers missing from around its neck and part of its head. I feel like making it a little scarf or stylish boa to wear.

Little Sugar and her bare neck

Soph and Little One on the first day.

The girls play with the chicks everyday. Feeding, watering and changing the cage is a daily job. When they get bigger, Soph sometimes cleans the cage twice a day. They take them out for flying lessons and exercise. The cage sits atop our kitchen table. We eat at the dining room table so it works out. I must admit I get very used to the constant chirping the two make during the day. When they sleep they cuddle up next to each other and I have to smile because my mother knew what she was talking about.

Soph, Little One and Em giving the chicks their morning exercise

Flying lesson at about a week old

Some cuddle time

At 2 weeks Sugar is able to fly to the top of the cage when we take off the screen. She has become the more advanced of the two and I have come to appreciate her unique appearance. At 2 1/2 weeks it is time for them to go back to school. Sadness descends upon our house. But it is time, I insist. Plus, they are going to a nice farm to live. Soph wants to see the farm. She is a mother hen wanting to make sure her chicks new home is nice enough. On their last day at our house Cookie flies to the top of the box I have her in. I find an odd comfort in this. Now I know she is ready.

Sweet Ms. L says it is no problem, after school we will go out to her parents place and put the chicks in their new home. Soph is so excited, that she forgets to be sad. That afternoon her best friends mom arrives with their chick to return. They had no intention of going to the farm, but once it is found out we are going, the poor mom has no choice. Whoops, sorry. Here we are at the farm, that is sweet Ms. L

The farm is very nice. The girls are thrilled to see all the other chickens and even a turkey. Dogs greet us as the girls giggle. The chicks are carefully placed in their new coop. Our chicks are twice the size of the others. I'm not sure why, maybe it was all that exercising and extra attention, or maybe it was because we took home two. Companionship may just grow healthier chicks. Even in the coop they stick together like glue, they have become good friends.
Soph putting her chicks in the coop.

Little One thinks this Border Collie looks just like her grandparents dog.

It is oddly quiet at our house. I keep expecting the little chicks to peep as I walk through the room. Amazing how attached you can get to little creatures. The girls still have a hard time eating chicken, and I must admit it has lost some of its appeal to me as well. Soph now is awaiting a field trip out to check on the chicks. We will see if that can be arranged.

My girls and Soph's sweet friend

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Start Of My 100 Things I Love About WB

So a while back I mentioned my friend Aimee and how she wrote 100 truly wonderful things about her sweet husband. WB told me I probably couldn't come up with 100 things to say about him. Baiting the hook, he's good at that. But you know, I always bite. So I decided to share some more stories about WB in the future and today is that day. Oh, and Mom I promise to post pictures of our chickens soon...WB first, chickens next. (She's been waiting anxiously for my chicken post.)

I love WB because he makes me things.

On one of our first group gatherings, we weren't dating yet, he made me a rose out of a bar napkin. Just so you know it wasn't just a bar. It was a Laundromat/pool hall/bar. It was college and these were our hangouts. Anyway, I was thoroughly impressed. I still have that rose, it was just too sweet.

He makes my coffee. He puts just the right amount of cream and sugar in it, better than I can do myself. Many nights I would stay up all night with one of our babies and as I padded half asleep into the kitchen each morning he would hand me my coffee. Made just to perfection. He still does it.

The list really is endless. He constantly makes me things with his own two hands. His two strong, masculine, never seen a manicure, hands. I could write a whole story about those hands, but I'll save that for later.

For my birthday he made me a beautiful cabinet that was built into the wall of our old house. For weeks he constructed, sanded, and stained. The drawers had dovetails and pewter pulls in the shape of Kachinas. Kachinas to remind me of our many trips to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, as well as the romantic night he proposed to me there. I cried when we moved and we had to leave that cabinet behind. I cried even harder when I realized the new couple had torn it out. I would have paid them to let me have the wood and the pulls. WB would have built me something else from it.

He once made a list of all the things he loved about me when we were dating. He also wrote me letters, many sweet letters when we were apart. He always wrote them on fancy stationary and cards. Sometimes sealed with wax. When he does something for me, he goes all out. A girl can get spoiled that way, but she can also live each day feeling cherished and loved too.

In the kitchen he makes amazing things; cheesecakes, bread, sinfully chocolate desserts, smoked brisket, gourmet breakfasts, and the list goes on and on. He wasn't much of a cook when we first got married, but he realized early on my passion for food. So he dove in headfirst and started cooking me delicious things. Things I love, things I crave, things I shouldn't have but do.

But the things I love best about him is that he makes a house a home. He makes my heart skip a beat when he looks at me. He makes my children smile. He makes me laugh and sometimes cry. He makes me a better person. He makes me feel safe. He makes me thank God each and every day for putting him in my life.

Okay, that's 1 down and only 99 more to go.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lighting Your Story

Photographers always talk about lighting. The lighting in a photograph is so important that many will wake up at the crack of dawn to take a particular picture, others will wait until dusk. The lighting affects the mood the photographer wants to portray in his picture. Good lighting can be the difference between an okay photo and a spectacular one. Photoshop and other software editing tools have become so popular partly because photographers can use them to manipulate the lighting in their photographs. They can doctor up photos in which the light might not have been very favorable. Like photographers using Photoshop, writers can doctor up their scenes with the right light.

As writers I think it is important to cast our story in the correct light. We're used to having light describe in phrases such as, "Sara entered the pitch black hallway," or "The light temporarily blinded Tom as he walked outside". Description is a common way we use light in our stories.

Descriptions of light can be used to establish a scene. "Darkness descended onto the crash site. Quickly, flood lights were set up to illuminate the area in which rescue crews were diligently searching for more survivors." The light tells you the time of day or the tansition of time, from day to night.

Light can also be used to provide insight about our characters. "The morning light slowly crept across the room returning warmth to the occupants of the small house," or "The darkness enveloped him except for a sliver of moonlight that illuminated the angry scar on his right cheek".

What about using light to set the mood? Movies do this all the time with darkening skies or glorious sunrises. How do you light up your stories?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Winner is...

Thanks to all of you who entered my poster print give away. Next give away I will run for a longer period of time, to give more people a chance. Tonight's winner was picked using the random integer.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:1
Timestamp: 2009-06-09 03:13:29 UTC

So the number one post is:Lisa
I have a picture of the three boys at the fishing dock at M.K. Brown Boy Scout camp that I have been dying to enlarge and hang. Thanks for the chance to win!
June 5, 2009 2:47 PM

Congratulations Lisa, that will be a neat picture to have!

Go to U Printing to check out all their items including their canvas prints.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Give-Away Time!

I'm so excited to have a give-away for you all today. In honor of Father's Day, which is just a few weeks away U-Printing blogs has graciously given me a 18 X 24 Poster Print to give-away to one of my lucky readers. Wouldn't that be an awesome Father's Day gift. They have wonderful poster prints and canvas prints you need to check out.

I think I'd pick one of the girls, like this one:

or maybe I would have one of the photographs that WB had published in Texas Highways magazine enlarged. It will be a tough choice.

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment about what picture you would like to have enlarged. For a second entry post about it on your blog with a link back to me. Come back and leave another comment telling me you've done this so I can enter you twice! The contest will end Monday at 7:00 Central Time. Oh, and I'm sorry but they will only ship to US/CAN residents for this give-away.

My friend Sasha at the formally Cherished Moments, but now has moved her blog to Small Town Mama is giving away Total Pamper Box filled with decadent items. She lives in Australia, which is where I would live if I didn't live in Texas. So go to her blog and enter. Plus, you'll want to hang around because she is the sweetest person and makes all sorts of homemade items!

Good luck!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Publishing World

I'm not an expert on the publishing world, but I've seen a few trends develop over the years. I think with budget cuts and the large number of writers wanting to get published, the big publishing houses seem to be more and more difficult for new writers to break into. Luckily, there are some other options out there.
There are a number of small publishing companies popping up all over the country. Their size restricts them from publishing as many works as their corporate competitors, but it seems to be a great way for new writers to get some recognition. I've heard that even if they can't use your work they may offer you assistance with who might. Plus, it may be a great way to get some feedback on your work.
Another choice is self-publishing. Places like lulu.com and other self publications are making it easier for people to get their work out there. Of course, you have to put the money up for the copies you want, but there are lots of places you can sell your book. You get to take charge of all the different aspects of your book by doing this. My mother-in-law Pat wrote about self-publishing on her blog. It is very informative.

This is also my chance to shamelessly plug her book.

This is a wonderful book about growing up in the Texas Panhandle during the 40's and 50's. I loved it not just because we're related and I live or have lived in these places, but also because it gives us a glimpse into life during a different time. It's full of neat stories about her childhood and is a great example of a self-published book. The other neat thing is people can order it straight from Lulu.com, how's that for marketing!

What are your thoughts on publishing? Anybody worked with or know of some of the small publishing houses? What about self-publishing? I'd love to hear what you all think.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yee Haw For The Last Day Of School

Last Friday was the last day of school for my girls. Every year the last day is a field day of sorts. They have bouncers, games, snacks, and hot dogs for lunch. Last year's theme was Boot Camp and they had camo t-shirts for the kids, army style obstacle courses, and all sorts of military style fun. This year the theme was Rodeo, which is perfect considering the school is surrounded by acres of ranch land.
I roped WB into taking the day off and he was asked to drive the tractor for the hayride. They asked if he could drive a tractor and I laughed, because we all know about WB and his tractor.
Anyway, he was perfectly content driving around the middle school track all morning with kids in tow. He entertained each group with exclamations like, "In the case of a water emergency your seats can be used as a floatation device" or "We will be traveling at a top speed of 4 miles per hour today". Little One, my friend KK and I were assigned to keep the rowdies in control during the rides. Needless to say, I still have hay marks on my legs.

Em and Little One

Brice Chapman,

a famous cowboy from Texas Tech, came to entertain the kids with Crossfire his horse. And later his dog Sooner came in for some fun. The kids were mesmerized. All day kids kept asking WB if he was that guy on the horse. All guys in cowboy hats and a pair of starched Wranglers must look the same, I guess.

Everyone had a wonderful day. It was just the right way to end the school year and our time at public school for now. It was full of good memories and lots of fun. Oh, and it was just the excuse I needed to buy myself a new hat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Critque Groups

I was cleaning out my bookshelf today and found a spiral notebook of information I got a few years back when Jodi Thomas gave a "Critique Boot Camp". I think it was in response to a bunch of us new writers constantly asking her how to critique, what group should we join, etc.

I thought I'd share some of the advice given to you, in case you are looking for a group to join.

1. A critique group is not a social club. If you want to socialize before hand set aside some time and then stick to a strict starting time for critiques.

2. Check your local writing associations, library's, writing friends for knowledge of critique groups in your area.

3. Ask lots of questions before joining a group. Make sure you know what is expected of you, how many members there are, what genres are represented, and what objections do they share to name a few.

4. Know the rules of your critique group. How many chapters do you bring? Is there a time limit for each critique? Do you read your work out loud or does someone else read it? How many copies of your work do you take to the meeting?

Do you have any other suggestions for people looking to join a critique group? I'm not currently in a group, but I have been in a couple of different ones. I am amazed by how each group is very unique, which reinforces to me that it is important to find a group that fits you and your writing needs. What do you think?

Monday, June 1, 2009

MMM- Getting Organized

Okay, school is out. The last week of craziness is over. Now it is off to summer schedules and getting organized! I've been thinking a lot about my blog recently, where it's headed etc. I started this blog to update relatives and friends on the happenings of our family. Then I ventured into trying to lure unsuspecting readers to my blog. Why? I 'm not sure. Maybe because I wanted to see that visitor number roll, or maybe because I just wanted to feel popular. I'm sure that last one is some sort of hang up I have from high school. Anyway, in the process I found some really neat blogs to read and found many new friends. Now I'm wondering about direction. Direction of my life, my sagging body parts in a swimsuit, my blog...you get the idea. I think I may have a direction for my blog, don't ask me about the others!

So here's what I'm thinking for now. I plan on blogging about writing - my writing, other people's writing - on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I plan on writing about family on Monday and Friday. And in the fall I'll use Wednesday to catch up on the homeschooling thing. The weekends will be a grab bag of sorts. That's the plan.

Wow, I feel a lot better having told you that. It's like now I have made a promise and I need to stick to it. I"m going to try. Really, really try.

Oh, and I have an awesome give away coming up soon. I have no idea what day of the week I'll be throwing it out there. I'm not that organized!

Check back;)