Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Funny ...

I saw this saying on a bumpersticker the other day and it made me laugh. Yeah, I know, it's sick. I never did see Deliverance, but I've read enough about the plot to know it's not a movie I want to see. But regardless, the bumpersticker made me laugh, especially since we're out paddling a lot.

Have you seen any bumperstickers that made you smile or laugh lately?

Monday, August 30, 2010

So cute!

I apologize for not being online much. I've been meaning to catch up on everyone's blogs, especially now that the first draft of my novel is done. Little Denny seems to have other ideas for me though and every time I put my laptop on my lap, he jumps up and wants to dance on the keyboard. If I tuck him under my arm, he wants to chase the cursor. If I try to type fast, he's fascinated with the clickety sound of the keys. Now he has his face in my coffee cup. He's such a clown. So instead, we've just been snuggling these past few days, and neither of us are complaining.

I realized the other day that it's been over 17 years since we've had a kitten. The last real kitten we got was Belle. Kitty was already pretty big before she started coming inside. It's really hard to believe Denny was a feral cat. He started purring and being affectionate the very first night we brought him home. Now he's just a bundle of love. He's so much like my other cat, CJ. It's like CJ sent him down with instructions. He acts just like him, even down to sleeping on my neck, mixing up my hair, and going under the covers. It's almost uncanny. There are a few other things I'd forgotten ...

Those little nails are SHARP! My poor hands look pathetic. Denny got his first nail clipping yesterday and did great. He didn't fuss at all, which was a sharp contrast to Belle. She would literally scream and bite and kick. Frankly, cutting her nails just wasn't worth stressing her out so much, so only did it when I absolutely had to. Denny just sat there like an angel and the difference is like night and day. I'm not bleeding nearly as much!

Kittens NEED toys! Sometimes he gets all lovey and then that turns into playtime. But if he gets going long enough, it turns into kill-everything-in-sight time, even if that includes hands, toes, faces, noses, hair, etc. I don't want him to play too rough, so when he gets like that, I have to have a furry mouse or some sort of toy to let him "kill".

Feral cats must have a really SHORT memory span. It's so hard to believe Denny was once an outside cat living in a feral colony. When we went to adopt him (he was the one we specifically went to see), he wouldn't let us get near him. All the other cats had been there longer and they were playful and all over us. Denny hid behind everything and wouldn't let us near him. That's not the case now. He's all over us. If he was living outside in the cold, he must know a good thing when he's got it because he's taking full advantage of having the good life now.

It IS possible to miss kitty litter on your bed. I know that sounds gross, but those of you who've lost a cat will know what I mean. Yeah ... it's possible.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meet Denny!

We have a new family member -- Denny! We adopted him last night from Life Savers Animal Rescue in Polson, MT. I'd been watching a few of my friends on Facebook post links for Pet Finders in their local areas. I went to the site and did a search for the Flathead Valley. There were a bunch of rescues listed, but I checked the Polson one first. That's when I saw Denny -- or I should say his little ear hairs! Those hooked me immediately. CJ used to have those long ear tufts. I'm such a sucker for tabbies.

We think Denny is about 3 months old. He came from Hot Springs, MT and started his little life as a feral cat. Poor baby. He'd only been at his foster home since August 10th, so he probably hasn't had any exposure to people. If he has, I'm sure it wasn't good. A lot of the other kittens were jumping all over us, but we couldn't hardly get close to Denny because he was so skittish. We brought him home and he spent most of the night under our bed. Rick and I heard him around 4am, but couldn't find him anywhere. We finally found him in our bathroom in the wedge between the bathtub and the sink. I tried to get him out and he hissed at me. I had him back out and a few minutes later he was just one big purr-box! He loved getting his head rubbed and he started drooling all over the place, so I took that as him being happy.

He was under the bed again this morning when I got up, but I just got him to go into the bathroom where he got something to eat. And once again, he's a big purr-box! He loves rolling over and having his belly rubbed. He also loves having his face and ears rubbed. He's still super skittish and nervous, but with time, I think he'll do just fine. He's got the biggest feet too, so I think he's going to be a big cat when he grows up. Right now he's under the bed grabbing a toy that the boys are wiggling around. I didn't know if I could adopt another cat after losing Belle in March. That was so hard. The thing is, Belle was given to me by my sister because she said she looked so much like CJ. Denny sure is a cutie, especially with those ear tufts!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I did it!

Last night I finished my current work-in-progress. I began writing a middle grade novel on July 30th, so I've been working on it for 21 days. Believe me, I have enough laundry and dust to show for it. Of course, this is just the first rough draft. Now comes the revision process, so it's hardly finished in that respect. Right now it's 30 chapters long with 49,535-words.

For the past 3 weeks, I've struggled with a title. I write mostly picture books and sometimes I come up with a title before anything else. Titles weren't a problem for my other two MGs stories, but it sure was for this one. For a long time, I had no ideas. And then last night it hit me out of the blue ...


It's such a weird feeling finishing a story like this. I don't know how to explain it. It's a happy feeling, but it's also a "Well, now what do I do?" feeling. I'll be busy revising as well as trying to come up with a synopsis and blurb. If someone were to ask me what my book was about, I could tell them, but I don't know if it would be too long, too short, too detailed, or too little detail. I figured I better start working on that.

So anyway ... I'm pretty happy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One man's trash ...

The other day Rick and I stopped at the dumpsite. We don't pay for trash service at our home, but take ours to a site which is then taken to the dump. It's free and there's no limit, so we like it. I've blogged about people digging in the dumpsters before. It's a daily occurrence and some people really get into it. The other day we drove up and I saw this pet carrier. Of course, I had to get out and look because it was sitting on the ground next to a bin, not inside it. I was worried someone might have dumped off a pet inside it. I couldn't not look. The guilt would have killed me. It was empty, thank goodness. Upon looking at the carrier closer, I realized it was brand new. It was a little dirty, but for the most part, there wasn't one scratch on it. These things are expensive, so like the white trash I am (snort), I put it in the van and brought it home. Why? I don't know! We already have two large pet carriers and only one cat. But since it was in perfect condition, I decided to snag it. Who knows when some small animal might come into my life. Right? Right? Or maybe I could take it to a pawn shop and get a few bucks. Who knows ... so I took it home and Rick cleaned it up.

Well, Neil flipped out over it. He has a collection of stuffed cats that he's had his entire life and this little carrier was just the perfect size for some of them. He's been carrying this carrier around for days. He even has some of those Fur-Real cats that meow, so it's funny to hear them in the carrier meowing. The other day he took a bunch of his cats up to town with us. Of course, I made him leave them in the car and I was hoping no one would call the cops on us. I could hear it already ... "Some idiot in a big white van has cats in a carrier with the windows rolled up!" Fortunately, our van is high and has dark windows, so we didn't get cited for any stuffed animal abuses.

I had to laugh at myself because I'm not someone who goes digging around in the trash dumpsters. However, this is the second thing I've brought home from that particular site. Last Christmas I found a planter in the shape of a sleigh. It was sitting on the edge of the dumpster, not inside it. Someone put it there hoping someone else would want it. Well, I have these little stuffed reindeers that I got from Burger King way back in the 80s. They needed a sleigh to pull Santa around, so ... I took it. Am I just turning into such a scuz that I take things from trash bins? Or are our stuffed animals playing mind games with us? It makes me wonder ...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Found them!

Although, I have to admit, I wasn't looking all that hard. Even so, it was cool I finally got to see what everyone was talking about with the giant marshmallows. And of course, I couldn't resist buying a bag. I'm not sure what I'll do with them. I was hoping to come up with a fun food-related craft project for The Marshmallow Man. I'm not sure what yet -- Mega Marshmallow Man maybe? If not, I guess there's always the firepit outside. We might have to toast those suckers! Or as I prefer -- char them until they're black. According to the back of the bag, one of these marshmallows makes a S'more using 2 full-sized graham crackers and a full-sized Hershey bar. That's a big S'more! They don't look that big in this picture, but they are.

Sorry I haven't been around in blogland much. I want to get caught up with that. My story has kept me hostage lately and I think I'm starting to see the end of it finally. Maybe. Well, sort of. I'm at over 37,000-words now. It's been fun. Other than my NaNoWriMo project a few years back, this is the most I've ever written. I'm not sure where my final word count will be either. I guess I'll know when I get there. I'm still trying to come up with a title too. It's funny because titles come really easily to me for picture books. This is a middle grade novel and I still don't have a clue what I want to call it yet. It might be one of those where I won't have any ideas until the story is done.

Anyway, today is Rick's birthday, so we're going to have a small party at home tonight when Nichelle gets home from work. Nicole is out mowing the lawn for him right now, even after working all day herself. We have the sweetest kids, I tell you. I hope everyone is having a great Monday!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Joy of Research

One of the things I love about writing is researching. I don't know why because I literally hated school when I was a kid. As an adult, researching is a fun part of the writing process for me. There's that old saying of 'write what you know', but I think it's just as fun learning new things as you write. My MG story is coming along well. I'll be starting chapter 18 today and I'm over 28K words now. In the short time I've been writing this story, I've learned some interesting things by researching. Some of which are ...
  • The wood from cottonwood trees isn't very strong. When the wood is processed, it's used to make things like pallets and wooden crates. It's also a poor wood to use for firewood because it doesn't burn well.

  • Only male crickets chirp. Actually, I knew this one already, but it's still fun to research it. The sound comes from them rubbing their wings together, not their legs like some people believe. On each wing is a tiny vein that has teeth, much like a comb. When they rub them together, the chirping sound is made. Some crickets can chirp over 60 times a minute.

  • Great horned owls are one of the few animals that eat skunks on a regular basis. They will hunt raccoons and eat other owls. Great horned owls also get picked on by crows. A flock of crows will harrass an owl by squawking at it for hours. They do this because the owls hunt the crows and their chicks.

  • The little dangly part of a zipper is called a pull-tab. It is connected to the slider. The little nubby things at the top of a zipper are called top-stops. The retainer box is at the very bottom.

  • Monarch butterflies look almost identical to Viceroy butterflies. The way to tell them apart is to look for a black line running through the hindwings of the Viceroy. Monarchs don't have that line and they are also bigger than Viceroy butterflies.

  • The chances of being attacked by a bear are 1 in 410,000. The chances of being killed during a bear attack are 1 in 1.2 million.

  • Common garter snake bites are not poisonous to humans. This I knew, but what I didn't know was that they could secrete a foul-smelling liquid if they're handled or harmed.
So, you see -- writing makes you smarter! And as you've probably guessed, a lot of my story relates to wildlife and being outdoors. Well, I'm off to research some more now. Is there anything interesting that you learned researching a story?

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Backsaver ...

I've spent the last ten days working on a story, which I'm probably a little more than halfway done with. I've been working on it a lot. I'm talking 25,000+ words in ten days. This also means I've been sitting -- a lot. I'm prone to having problems with my back and all this writing is really messing with it. I've been trying to move from place to place, so I'm not sitting too long. I've also been exercising everyday and trying to eat healthier. But even so, 25,000+ words involves a lot of sitting.

I get tell-tale signs when these spasms are about to hit. Not only do I feel the spasms in my back, but it runs all the way through my chest, causing pain and making me nauseous. As soon as I get that chest pain and nausea, I know the spasms are coming and there's no stopping them. I've been to the ER in the middle of the night because of this. Now I keep meds on hand to help me deal with it. I have to take a combo of three different things, just to relax the muscles, keep me from throwing up, and letting me sleep. And almost always, these spasms hit me in the middle of the night. Not today ...

I woke up at 6am with the symptoms. I was bummed because Rick is off work on Mondays and we planned on either kayaking or going to up Glacier, or both. I didn't want to take all my meds at 6am and be a zombie all day. I don't think I could handle it. So, I took some Excedin Back & Body and put my massager pad on my bed. Rick bought this thing for me recently. It's kind of rough and actually bruised my back at first, so now I use it with a blanket over it to lessen the impact. After about an hour, I noticed the spasms letting up. I'm still leaning on it, but it's helping! I can't tell you how happy I am because when these spasms hit, they're bad -- really, really bad. So, here I sit on my little torture pad, which seems to be doing its job. Maybe we can get up to the park after all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Got Suh-lad?

I'm all into salads right now. Considering all the junk food I love, I guess that's not such a bad thing. I can't hear the word salad anymore without thinking of SpongeBob. There's an episode when Mr. Krab's daughter, Pearl starts working at the Krusty Krab. She gets rid of the burgers and puts "salad" on the menu. SpongeBob has no idea what it is and pronounces it "suh-lad". I don't know. I guess you had to be there. I just hear the word as suh-lad now.

Costco has some really good suh-lad stuff right now. Yesterday I bought a big mixture of lettuce greens. It's that really funky looking stuff. Seriously, some of it looks like the stuff Rick cusses at when he's mowing the lawn. But I like all those weeds and twiggy things, so it works. Costco also has mini cucumbers. Have you tried those? I never had until recently. They look like pickles, but taste like regular cucumbers. They're perfect to munch on all by themselves. So today my sah-lad featured a variety of funny looking weeds, some grape tomatoes, cukes, a fresh pepperonchini from our garden, a few croutons, a piece of string cheese cut up, some leftover peas, and some hunks of leftover turkey breast. I topped it off with a calorie-free bacon-ranch dressing. Maybe I'm a freak, but I love that kind of stuff.

I'm sure you'll all sleep better now that you know what I ate for lunch. I seriously came here to post a simple recipe for turkey breast. See what happens when you try to eat healthier? You're brain gets fried! There's no way I could be a full-time health food person. I'd go insane for sure. Anyway, the other night I cooked a boneless Butterball turkey breast in my crock-pot and it came out really, really good -- really! All I did was put it in my 6-quart pot, sprinkle a packet of onion soup mix over it, and top it with one thinly sliced onion. I cooked it for exactly 4-hours and it came out perfect. It's so easy, it's ridiculous. So, if you're looking for something easy, give it a try. After all, you can always use the leftovers in your suh-lad!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Contest Results ...

First of all, I want to thank everyone who took the time to enter my contest for The Marshmallow Man. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's marshmallow stories. They were all so fun and I was happy to see there are a few people like me who love charred marshmallows. The blacker, the better! As a kid, marshmallows were just one of those fun foods. I loved them just about anyway possible. I still do. My family goes camping a lot, so making S'mores is something fun we do together.

There were 36 people who entered the drawing for the autographed copy of The Marshmallow Man. I wish it were possible to pick every one of you, but until I write that bestseller, that's not going to happen. However, I put everyone's name in my trusty Obermeyer ski cap (I should stay dusty Obermeyer cap because I never wear it, despite paying and arm & leg for it) and drew one name from the lot. And, the winning name is ...


Congratulations, Sybil! I hope your boys enjoy the book. Please email me a mailing address and I'll get it out to you right away. Also, please let me know if there is a particular way you'd like it signed. Thanks again to EVERYONE who entered. I was happy to see so many people participating. The Marshmallow Man is special to me because it's something my boys and I thought up one day after doing a themed week studying The Gingerbread Man. If you'd like to get a copy of the book, it's available through 4RV Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Online, Book-A-Million, or can be ordered through any bookstore. All you need are the numbers (ISBN-10: 0984070893 ISBN-13: 978-0984070893) and any bookseller can get it.

Don't forget about The Marshmallow Man Activity Pages, which are found on my website. It has fun projects for kids to do after reading the book, or even before. I'll be adding new things to the pages too, so check back every now and then. And don't forget to watch The Marshmallow Man Trailer! Again, thank you all so much! It's been fun and you've totally made me crave marshmallows for the past 2 weeks. Last night I was munching on mini-marshmallows, but today I'm heading up to town. I'm gonna find those huge marshmallows if it's the last thing I do!

Friday, August 6, 2010

So, tell me writers ...

Isn't this tee shirt great? I need one of these, but I'd like mine to say, "Don't piss me off or you'll end up in my next picture book!" Now that could get ugly! Some of you know I'm working on a story right now. Most of what I write are picture books geared towards kids ages 4-8, but have written a few middle grade novels. None have been published yet, but I'm still working on that. I was in the middle of writing a MG story recently when I had a new idea come to mind. So, I put the other on hold to begin the new one. I started on July 30th and I've been working on it about a week. At my last check, I was around 19,532-words and it's been coming along great. However, I have a few questions for those of you who write ...

1. Do you concentrate more on getting a rough draft down first, or do you edit along the way?

I have a habit of editing along the way and I know that slows me down a lot. I'll sit down to write, only to spend a couple of hours editing the last chapter. Of course, I add stuff along the way, so it's technically writing. I'm not sure if editing as I go is good or bad. The thought of having an entire manuscript written in a rush terrifies me when I think of having to go back and edit it all at once. It's really hard for me not to edit as I write because I keep changing stuff or come up with something new to add.

2. Do you try to keep your chapters around the same length, or does that not matter just as long as you finish the scene or get your point across?

Writing novels is still new for me, so I don't know if how I do them is good, bad, helpful, or what. For the two I've completed, I set out a certain word count as my initial goal. Then after creating an outline and deciding how many chapters I needed, I divided the numbers. That gives me a goal to work towards. Of course, after editing and coming up with new things to add (or take out), the word counts aren't exact. However, I've found it's helpful to have that as a goal. Does anyone else do that? Or am I just weird?

3. Do you base your characters on specific people you know?

A lot of my characters are based on people I know, often more than one person within the same character. What's frightening is how much *I* am in some of them. Again, I don't know if that's good or bad. Part of me sees it as good -- like a bizarre fantasy of someday being interviewed about my book. Silly, I know. But another part of me finds it terrifying -- like opening myself up and exposing all my secrets. When I read back some of the stuff I've written, I see a lot of myself in the characters. I honestly can't tell if that's a bad thing, or if it's just my voice coming out. It's scary, that's all I know!

4. How do you organize your time in between work, family, home, etc.?

I'm terrible at this when it comes to both writing AND reading. If I get a book that really interests me, I won't do anything until it's finished. That's good and bad. Good because it's obviously a really good book. Bad because I don't accomplish anything else. I might as well add sad too because I usually read books in one (or two, maybe) sittings and I'm always bummed when I finish. It's like chocolate -- it never lasts long enough. I find I do this with writing too, whether it be a picture book or a novel. It consumes my time and everything gets pushed to the back burner. Of course, it's still summer and I am technically on vacation, so I guess that's okay. Once school starts up, things will be different. What do you do? Do you give yourself a certain amount of time, or simply write when you can?

5. And finally, how do you keep your back from hurting when you're spending so much time BIC (butt-in-chair) writing?

Most of you know I have problems with my back. It's caused from sitting too long at one time. Every few months I'll wake up in the middle of the night with horrible back spasms. I have to take a combo of 3 medications just to help me relax enough to sleep. I'm usually okay the next day. I thought for awhile it was caused from poor posture while using my laptop. I don't sit at a traditional desk much and I move around from various chairs, to the bed, to the table, etc. But right now, this story is so fresh in my mind and I want to get it all down. It's really playing havoc with my back. I know I need to get up and move around more. I've been exercising on my TreadClimber, but that doesn't work back muscles. I also have a Shiatsu massage pad that I put in my chair when it gets real bad. It makes me cuckoo though because now is the time I have to write before school starts, but if I write too long, I pay for it dearly with back pain. Do you stretch, do yoga, cuss at the cat, or what?

Anyway, I'm going to get working on my story now. Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post, if you made it down all this way. Don't forget about the contest for The Marshmallow Man below. I won't pick a winner until tomorrow's blog, so there's still time to enter! Thanks, again!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One S'more Day!

Hey everyone. I just wanted to remind you that there's one more day for my Marshmallow Man Contest. All you have to do is leave a comment about marshmallows on the link to be entered in a drawing. I'll keep it running through tomorrow night and pick a winner from a hat on Saturday. Well, I'm not a hat person, so I might use a bowl, if that's okay.

I've really enjoyed all of the comments so far. I've been craving S'mores something awful from reading them all too. Last night I had a Moon Pie, but it wasn't the same. It was probably the first one I'd eaten in something like 10 years. It was good, but I'll probably be able to go another 10 years before needing another. I'm still looking for those huge marshmallows too. One of our stores here carries them, but was out when I looked. I'd like to get a bag and see if I can come up with something to do for The Marshmallow Man Activities pages. Please check them out, if you haven't done so already.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who's entered. If you haven't, there's still time!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mr. Buggy

Sorry I haven't been around in blogland lately. I'm really behind reading everyone's blogs. I hope to catch up tomorrow sometime. I'm all engrossed in writing a story right now. It's a middle grade story and I haven't had this much fun writing in a long time, if ever. I've been working on it for about 3 days and am at 13,353-words so far. I know it sounds like a McDonalds commercial, but ... I'm lovin' it!

How do you like my bug? I can't remember when I took this picture, but I think it was about a year ago. We get the weirdest looking moths at night, especially if I leave my porch light on. Some of them are so big that they make a bunch of noise when they whack into the window. I'm not sure what kind this is, but if you click on the pic, it gets bigger. It's pretty creepy, especially the way the eyes glow and he's looking at you.

Don't forget about my contest for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Marshmallow Man. It's just a few posts down. All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment and say something about marshmallows. It's that simple. I still haven't found any of those huge marshmallows, but I'm looking. The store that carries them was out the other night. Today I saw some strawberry and coconut ones. Now I love coconut, but it doesn't sound good on a marshmallow. I'd like a S'more ... okay, back to writing!