Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing Craft Book Suggestions

Happy Monday!

I have a question for you today. What is your favorite book about the craft of writing?

I’ve been reading the The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell. Several of my writing blogging buddies had recommended it, so I ordered it. I’m loving it. It’s simple and straightforward, yet packed with information.

So what writing book would you recommend to other writers?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just a little story about mice and a crazy nursing woman....

I planned on writing some very informative post about the writing process today, but I got distracted by three little words my husband uttered to me last night.

"Mouse in garage."

I shook my head, "What?"

"Oh, I saw a mouse in the garage this morning. Guess, I need to find the traps."

My heart began to beat a little faster and I felt the beginnings of a cold sweat. It's ridiculous really. As a science teacher I led dissections, held cockroaches, snakes and all sorts of critters. So why this thing with mice?

All I can say is that it started three years ago, when I was beyond exhausted with a newborn who wouldn't sleep or eat and two kiddos I was carting back and forth to school each day. And as I sat bleary-eyed on the couch trying to nurse, I witnessed first one rodent, then another, scurry under the couch. Fleeing to the upstairs, one ran out at me from my daughter's room while another rounded the corner of my bedroom. I made a hysterical phone call to my Dad at 6:30 in the morning. Oh never mind that he lived ten hours away, I needed my Dad. In the midst of my tears and hysteria I heard him say "Pest man". He also said get everyone in the car and get out of the house.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. My Dad did not believe for one moment that we were in any danger, not from the mice anyway. I believe he heard in my voice the beginnings of complete meltdown. I could barely talk, my heart was racing, and my entire body felt like it had been submerged in an ice bath. I remember telling him this on the phone and that if I saw one more mouse I wasn't sure what I might do. He knew the only way I was going to get my head on straight again was if I left the house. So I did.

We drove to Sonic. Isn't that where everybody goes when their house has become infested with mice? We parked, ordered breakfast, I nursed and waited until my husband would be out of his morning meeting so I could relate the whole ugly ordeal to him. I have a confession here. I seriously wanted WB to get in his car the moment he heard the news and come home. Tell the guys at work, "Hey, sorry. I know I have half a dozen meetings today and the refinery might shut down if I don't finish this project I'm working on causing gas prices to go to 6 dollars a gallon, but my wife is having a rodent crisis at home."

When I talked to WB he thought I should call the pest man,the one who advertised in the back of our church bulletin. It became clear he thought I was much more stable then I felt. He believed I could just walk back into that mouse house and wait for the pest guy. He had no idea, unlike my Dad, that his wife was loosing it. I think I told him fine I'd call, but I wasn't going back to the house until he came. WB responded with "Okay, that's fine. Just go do some shopping." I had a newborn and it was 8 in the morning, we went to the park.

I left a message with the pest man. Poor man, I think my message went something like this. "Hi, This is Kara. I got your name from the back of the church bulletin. I have a newborn and two little girls and this morning an army of mice invaded my house. (voice cracking) They are running under my couches, up and down the stairs, and in my children's bedrooms. We just moved to this house out in the country and I can't have mice running around with a little baby in the house." ( I'd been having these vivid images of mice chewing on my babies arms and toes while she innocently lay sleeping in her crib, I told you I was loosing it.) "Would you be able to come out today? I'm in town here's my cell number."

That sweet man called me back within the hour. He had the calmest, most fatherly voice. He told me that he would be there that afternoon. He assured me that I should not have mice in the house, especially with little ones running around. I felt relieved and just a little less crazy.

I met him at the house that afternoon. He had white hair and a white short beard with kind dark eyes. I liked him instantly. We had a long discussion about all the critters that live around my house. He told me why he used live traps vs. poison or snap traps. He told me that I probably only have a couple of mice, but that they run around a lot and I more than likely was seeing the same ones. He checked out my house and determined the only way in was through the back garage door. He told me they were looking for food and water and therefore, wouldn't stay upstairs for long. I think he was at my house for over an hour. Maybe he sensed my uneasiness. I'd like to think I wasn't the first hysterical woman he came across. He set up some live traps, told me to call if I needed anything and he'd see me next month.

I'd like to pause by saying that he or his partner come to my house once a month to spray the outside and to check on things. It's been three years now and every time I see their little white van pull into my driveway I always rest easier that night. Really, I'm thinking there needs to be a special award for Pest Men everywhere!

Here's the good news, it's three years later and I haven't been locked up in a little padded room somewhere. My baby finally started to gain weight and eat, we're getting better with the sleeping, and I am no longer an exhausted, worn out momma. Well, most days I'm not. I'd like to say the mice never returned to the house, but I can't. You can read here for a post on their return. Remember how I said "live" trap, well I bet you wondered what happened to the mice once they were caught. You might be surprised by my reaction to the captured little rodents that caused me such misery. You can read about that here and here.

So that's my story. All brought on by three little words. I'm off to find the live traps and trying not to think about the fact that I'm sure one of those critters is at this very moment watching me from inside my house.

Would you like to share a mouse story with me or just an "I'm just an exhausted momma, I'm not really crazy, story"? I'd love to hear:)

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little Sunshine...

Have I told you about one of my favorite new authors? I think I have, but if you haven't checked out Emily Ann Benedict's new book "Only Angels Are Bulletproof" you need to . I picked up her book after reading a review on Warren Baldwin's blog.

And so imagine my sweet surprise when I was reading her blog the other day and realized she had given me an award. Little ole me! Actually, I read her blog saw my name, but the link wasn't working and figured she probably knew some other Kara. But later she wrote to me on facebook and told me she had an award for me! The Kara was me after all, yippee. I was so happy because the award was the "Sunshine Award". It made me happy to know that even though it was raining cats and dogs in my part of the woods I was giving a little sunshine to someone else.
This week is supposed to be rainy so I'd like to pass on the sunshine to some of my blogging friends who always brighten my day. I'm only going to name a few of my writing buddies, but you all know I love each and every one of you, right?
Head over to their blogs for a little bit of sunshine this week:)

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Questions…

Okay, I’m feeling a little frustrated and a little embarrassed too.  I’ve been studying away, rethinking my WIP, and thinking my voice may fit more into the Christian market.  But wait, what is the Christian market?

I’ve read Christian Inspirational books.  I know the books that are out there, but I’m not sure I know exactly what is expected.  This is where I need your help.  What are the guidelines?  Do they vary from one  publishing house to another?  I’ve tried searching these houses website for writers guidelines and all I can find is that they don’t take unsolicited writing.

I know there must be rules like no profanity and dealing with characters who are romantically involved etc., but I can’t find them.  Can you point me in the right direction?

And I have one more question.  Have you ever felt limited by certain guidelines, no matter what you write, or do you feel that is just part of the challenge of writing a marketable book?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When to change direction?

DSC00851 Okay, all my writing friends I have a question.  When do you give up on a WIP or do you never?  I have one that has been ongoing for a few years now.  I think I have 3 or 4 versions about halfway through.  It was started when I was taking writing classes, critiquing, and had two kids that were getting more independent so I had time etc. 

The different versions stems from my lack of direction and trying to write a story that fit all these expectations, sometimes not even my own.  I’d like to think I’m older and wiser now.  That I’m ready to morph into a new being, or at least a different kind of writer.

I’m just so torn. Should I just walk away completely or try to salvage what I have even if it means another revision?  What would you do?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Being A Mom



Here’s the lady that inspired me to become the mother I am today.  Yep, that’s my momma.  Just by looking at this picture you already know some things about her.  One she is beautiful, and she is just as beautiful on the inside.  Two, she dedicated her life to helping others.  Third, knowing the first two you know she must be a very caring person.  And she is.

She taught me life lessons with quiet affirmations, gentle nudges, and a calm demeanor.  She made childhood fun with her love of learning. Whether we were taking trips to visit Gettysburg or learning to macramé or pickling cucumbers from the garden, she always kept us entertained.

She taught my sister and I that blood is indeed thicker than water. That our sisterly spats were passing, but that sisterly love would carry us through our lives.  She wished us to hold on to each other, and to lift each other up.  And we have.

She taught us about God through her quiet faith, gentle reminders, and never-ending patience. 

I knew when I became a mom I had much to live up to.  I also knew she would only be a phone call away whenever I needed her.  And she is.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  I love you!


Mom, Emma, Sophie and I taken five years ago.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guest Post (Part 3): 2010 BP MS 150 Ride from Houston to Austin

Greetings again, EKAAH followers! Once again, this is WB, finishing my story of my participation in the BP MS 150 ride from Houston to Austin. The first two parts of my story can be found here and here. When I left off on my last post, I had just finished the 84 miles from Rhodes Stadium in Katy to the fairgrounds in La Grange, TX. It was bout 2:00 in the afternoon, and I had been riding since about 7:00 that morning. I was beat. However, before I could rest, I had to find the Team Total tent, and I had to find my family! I had my cell phone with me, and I knew that my supportive family was in the area. They had driven from Houston to spend the afternoon and evening with me.

The town of La Grange has a population of about 4,600. For one night in the spring, the small town hosts over 13,000 cyclists, their families, and volunteers. In order to do this, a tent city is constructed at the Fayette County Fairgrounds.


In case you are curious, this is what 13,000 bikes look like. If you figure that each bike costs $500 (probably a low estimate), then this parking area has $6.5 million worth of bikes in it!

Large cycling teams have one or more tents, and individual tents are pitched in open spaces. I made my way to the Team Total tent, where I met Reza. Although we had lost track of each other in the last part of the ride, we finished at about the same time. I parked my bike and found my assigned cot in the tent. Soon, I was joined by Kara and the kids. I then headed off to the showers.

Kara and the girls spent some time with my camera.

After I got back from the shower, I had learned that Reza had caught up with Cheryl (from the Mattress Firm team). It turns out that they had room for a couple more people in their tent, and they had actual mattresses to sleep on! Also, the Mattress Firm tent was close to the start line for the next morning’s ride. This proximity was important since I had a time constraint for Sunday’s ride. Kara and the kids helped me transport my bike and my gear to the Mattress Firm tent. I soon discovered that the Mattress Firm team had secured the best restroom facilities in the entire fairgrounds. Most of the other teams had port-a-potties, but Mattress Firm had rented an air-conditioned bathroom trailer! It was truly a luxury.

After the move, we all piled in to the minivan for a short trek to Smithville where we met my brother and his family, and our parents for dinner. Smithville is famous for being the setting for the movie Hope Floats (for you Sandra Bullock fans). It was great getting away from the hectic crowds in La Grange to spend some relaxing time with my extended family. Plus, the cousins seemed to have a good time with each other.

P1010222Here I’m looking pretty worn down with my daughters and their cousins in Smithville.

After dinner, Kara dropped me off in La Grange, and then took the kids to a clean, comfortable, quiet Hilton hotel room in Austin. As I settled in for the night, I tried my best to get some much needed sleep. Unfortunately, despite the wonderfully comfortable mattresses, I could not sleep. The tent houses about 30 people, and it started raining heavily around midnight. Between the sounds of the rain, and people getting up to go to the restroom and other disturbances, I did not sleep well at all. I had been advised to set my alarm at around 4:30 so that I could set my bike near the start line. I woke Reza so that he could do the same.

It was important that I got an early start on Sunday, since I had a plane to catch in Austin at 5:15 pm. Of course, that meant that I had to get to the airport at 4:15, and I had to shower and change prior to that. I was faced with some critical choices on Sunday. We could either choose the Pfizer Lunch Express route, or the Bechtel Challenge route. The Lunch Express route was supposed to be quicker along the main roads, but more boring. Also, the Lunch Express route was more open and exposed to headwinds.

The Bechtel Challenge route presented another choice: take the “park route” or bypass the park to the main roads. I had been advised that the park route was extremely hilly, but beautifully scenic. However, if it was wet, the park route would pose some serious hazards to cyclists. Several people relayed accounts of horrific wrecks on the wet, hilly roads in the park in years past. As I placed my bike in the pre-dawn drizzle close to the start line Sunday, I still did not know which route I would choose.

After securing our place near the start, Reza and I set out to search for coffee. We found some at a neighboring tent, and then we returned to pack up our belongings and stretch for the ride. All the time, I was pondering if I should play it safe and get to Austin in plenty of time to catch the plane, or challenge myself with the more adventurous route. As dawn neared, I soon realized the wisdom of placing my bike early.


It’s tough to tell from this picture, but at the 7:00 am start time the line of cyclists stretched back for probably a quarter of a mile or more. I was told that those in the back would not be able to start until two or three hours after the first riders set off.

Similar to the Saturday start, the rain had fortunately stopped by the time dawn broke. The weather forecast had showed that the line of rain storms would continue to move east, and that we should be dry for the rest of the day. That also meant that there would be a headwind as we travelled west. I chose to take the Bechtel challenge route, and I would assess the road conditions and decide on the park route when I got to that point.

Since I was under a time constraint, I knew I couldn’t stop and take pictures as often as I had on Saturday. However, as we rode along in the early morning, I soon heard the sounds of a bagpipe in the distance. Once again, bagpipe man had stationed himself along the route to entertain the riders. There was a large group clustered around him, so I only got a quick snapshot.


I would have liked to have had my picture with him, but I had to press on. When I came to the entrance of Buescher State Park the roads had started to dry out. I made the quick decision to take the park route.

The park route was truly an amazing cycling adventure. It was a roller coaster ride through a dense pine forest. Since the roads were still wet in places, I rode conservatively through the park. I achieved my top speed of the day at 37.9 mph on the park route down one of the hills, but I easily could have topped 40 mph or more. The route took us through Buescher State Park and the adjacent Bastrop State Park. At the end of the park route, we emerged from the pine forest in Bastrop, TX.

There was a lunch stop in Bastrop, but I elected to skip it and press on to Austin. At the next rest stop, I called Kara and let her know that I was getting close. The hills on the last few miles into Austin were brutal, but I had to keep pace. Soon, I could recognize the familiar urban setting of downtown Austin.


The welcome sight of the state capitol loomed ahead as I rounded the last turn towards the finish line.


Thousands of people had turned out to welcome us to Austin. I was exhausted, sore, chaffed, sunburned, and wind burned, but none of that seemed to bother me much as I rode through the crowds to the finish. I had made it!

I crossed the finish line at about 1:15 pm, which left me plenty of time to get cleaned up in time for my plane. I was certainly glad to see Kara at the finish!


I even managed to get a much needed nap in after a shower but before I had to be at the airport. The ride Sunday was nearly 75 miles, but it was definitely tougher than Saturday’s ride.


I was glad that I took the park route. I know that I would definitely have regretted not taking the challenge. We are already making plans for next year's ride!


Thanks for letting me share my story!