Monday, May 31, 2010

I miss my kitty ...

Today has been an emotional day for me. I had to do something I've putting putting off for a long time -- clean my bedroom. I know that sounds lame, but ever since we had to put Belle to sleep I haven't wanted to do it. I make my bed everyday, mind you, and I keep it picked up. I just haven't done a good, thorough cleaning in awhile. In the corner of the room next to my bed was a little box Belle used to play in. It had a blanket in it, some of her toys, and on top there was a pillow she slept on all the time.

I knew I'd have to pick it up eventually, but it wasn't something I wanted to do. We also had little pet steps at the end of our bed that helped her get up. I still hadn't moved those, if you can believe that. Towards the last few weeks of her life, she slept under the chair in the other corner of the room. She had pulled out a lot of her hair, so we did clean that up right away, as well as remove her little water dish. But, I still had the other box and her little basket of kitty things. I can't explain it -- it was just emotional.

However, the dust was getting thick and I have company coming over in July, so it had to be done. It was hard. I haven't broken down like that in a long time. The good part is that I moved things around and it's clean and organized again. Now I have to tackle the bathroom, which I'm not looking forward to. Rick just accused me of closet encroachment, so I'm thinking I need to get that organized as well. But anyway, it's been a weird day. We still miss Belle so much. Life just isn't the same without her.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kids, cells, books, writing ...

Yesterday I read an article about children and cell phones. It was called Children More Likely To Own A Mobile Phone Than A Book. The title alone was sad. Now, I'm not against kids having cell phones. I know many do, and at a very early age. It seems the average age is ten, or around 5th grade, but I know of younger ones. I understand every parent has their own reason for their kids having phones or not having them. To be honest, cell phones aren't my thing. I don't even keep mine on unless I'm away from home. And even so, that's only if Rick's not with me. If someone calls, they go through him. My girls have phones, but they're adults. The boys still don't have them and at this point, have no need for them.

Back to the article, which was written in the UK, but had studies done in the US -- they said 9 out of 10 students own a cell phone, whereas fewer than three-quarter of them own books in their homes. That's kind of sad. According to the article, it claimed that 80% of children who had access to books in their home were better at reading than children who had less or no books. It said children coming from homes with books remained in education three years longer than kids who came from homes with fewer books. The study says there is a clear link to a child's reading ability when they have easy access to books at their home. Click here to read the article.

Now here's the funny part -- one of my friends posted this on Facebook yesterday. I read her friend's comments and one said she felt literacy levels were rising in the UK because children had cell phones. In order for them to keep in touch with friends, they have to know how to write. Hmmm. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure "OMG, ur so dum, FML n TTYL!" should be considered writing, more or less literate. I thought about it and tried to give kids a break. After all, I use some of those terms when I'm online. But to claim that literacy and communication skills are improving because of cells and texting is absolutely ludicrous. I read another article last night (on a totally different subject) and I was flabbergasted at the comments. Some were obviously written by kids. If you don't believe me, click here. Read the comments and tell me texting and cells are improving our children's communication skills. Please, I beg you. Take your time ... I can wait.

It's depressing when you think about it. Cells are one of my pet peeves. I'm not anti-phone and don't care if others have them. But, I don't need to be in a public restroom and have some lady next to me in another stall think she has to be on the phone while she's on the toilet. Nor do I like waiting at a register while someone text messages and holds the entire line up. Last summer I watched a toddler climb onto a table at the zoo and then fall off. Both his parents finally looked up from their phones only when they heard him crying. And don't even get me started on texting/talking while driving. I'm no saint and I've been on the phone in the car, but only if it's absolutely necessary. I'm a writer, not a chit-chatter or text fanatic. So anyway, it was depressing to hear that kids are more likely to own a cell than a book, but it was laughable when people tried to justify it. Sure, we have phones, but also have shelves and shelves of books. My office/classroom is filled with books. All my kids have bookshelves in their rooms. Right as I sit here, I have several books on my nightstand, a pile on my vanity stool, several more on the vanity itself, some sitting on the floor by my chair, and a big pile of books in a little hamper that need to be put away. Maybe we're just some sort of freakish book family and an exception to what's normal.

However, it's still sad. It's sad to see two friends sitting together, only to be ignoring each other with cells in their hands. Sure, they're communicating, but not with each other. Will this affect us as a society in the future? Kids are our future. What happens if these kids grow up and don't know how to sign their name, more or less write a complete sentence? If you think about it, it seems really grim. BUT! Yesterday I picked up our local paper and on the second page I read this heading: BHS Juniors Earn Recognition for Writing Skills. The article goes on to say how the juniors at Bigfork High School earned higher on their Montana University System Writing Assessment than others of previous years. They scored higher than any Class AA or A school in the state and tied for first among Class B schools. Bigfork was one of several schools in the top quartile that received Awards of Merit from the Montana Board of Regents. Now kids at Bigfork High aren't any different than kids in your town. They probably all have cell phones and that's no big deal. The fact of the matter is that there is hope. Sometimes you to look a little harder to see it. So, yay for the kids at BHS! And now I leave you with this -- TTFN! (I'll let you figure that one out.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

That big, bad wolf ...

He's always gobbling up something or someone -- and this time it's Neil's arm. By the look of things though, Neil isn't too upset over it. Neil is totally into wolves right now, especially werewolves. Well, just as long as they aren't too scary, of course. Rick had Michael Jackson's Thriller video on the TV the other day. You should have seen Neil bolt from the room like a flash of lightening. Paper bag wolf = okay. Thriller = run for your lives!

We've been reading various versions of Little Red Riding Hood for school. We read the original by Grimms and another version by James Marshall. Today we read William Wegman's version. Do you have any of his books? He's the one that dresses up his weimaraner dogs. I was reading the part about Little Red Riding Hood taking blueberry muffins to her grandma. Just out of the blue, Neil says, "Why doesn't she bring dog biscuits?" I don't know why, but it cracked me up. We have several of Wegman's books and the dogs always make me laugh. They look so bored and like they're saying, "Why are you doing this to me?" We didn't do a lot of crafts for Little Red Riding Hood, but we did do some activity pages that I found online. It's amazing how much you can find on the Internet, especially for the older books and stories like these -- lots of fun, educational stuff!

In completely different news -- I saw the illustrations today for the second book in the Dilly series. This one is called A New Friend for Dilly and he searches from A to Z to find the perfect friend. Lisa Oakman has done a great job illustrating it. She's given Dilly such a lovable personality. And, that's hard to do with a rat who hangs out in trash all day! I'm not sure when this will go to print, but I was really excited to see the artwork. The Marshmallow Man, however, is at the printer NOW and should be available in two weeks. I can't wait for it to come out -- it's a fun story!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

To watch, or not to watch ...

Last night I posted on Facebook how I felt like an outcast because I don't watch TV. So many of my friends have been talking about American Idol, LOST, Dancing With The Stars and all those other popular shows. I don't really feel left out -- just weird. I was surprised how many people replied and said they weren't into TV much either. To be honest, it's not that I don't watch the popular shows -- I don't watch any of them. If I do watch something on one of the channels, it's usually a political talk show. I know that sounds weird coming from someone who writes picture books. I'm just not into it. When I do sit in front of the TV, it's usually to watch a DVD.

Lately, Rick's been saying my sense of humor has changed. He loves comedies and is always trying to get me to watch the newest movies. I try to, but they're just not funny to me. Recently, we watched the Get Smart movie and he made fun of me because I didn't laugh through the entire film. (Well, there was that one part when they made fun of Hollywood actors not being able to give their political opinions if the city blew up -- I laughed at that.) The rest wasn't funny, at least not to me. Then we watched Fun With Dick & Jane and it was the same. Maybe he's right. Maybe I have lost my sense of humor when it comes to movies. Mind you, my whole family loves TV. The boys don't watch it as much as most kids, I suppose. They're more into PS3 or playing outside. I'm the oddball of the family.

However ... sit me down in front of an animated film and I'm all giggles. I laughed throughout the entire Ice Age 3 movie. Open Season 2 makes me bust up in hysterics, especially with Roger the cat. When one of the dogs says, "I gotta poop!" I laugh so hard my sides hurt. If someone says that in a regular movie, I turn into my grandma and become totally disgusted. I don't know anymore. Maybe I'm just the world's biggest prude.

Maybe it's just comedies. They're all so crude. It's spilled over into kid's movies, which is one of my pet peeves. An animated dog saying he has to poop is funny, but it's not when it's coming from a person, even if they're animated. I've found the movies I enjoy the most are the furthest from reality as they can get -- Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Narnia. Maybe it's not that I can't handle comedies. Maybe it's that I can't handle reality. When the spaceship breaks in half in Star Wars III and Anakin says, "I think we lost something" -- that's funny to me. But when it comes to television shows, I'm absolutely clueless.

How about you -- do you watch a lot of TV?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What was on your box?

Last night on Facebook, Lisa Yee asked what everyone had on their lunch boxes when they were a kid. I'm totally into nostalgic stuff like that, so I jumped on the post right away. Pretty soon, I found myself on eBay, searching vintage lunch boxes. Some brought back memories. I went to grade school in the 1970s and lunch boxes were a big deal. It was even more so because I went to a school that didn't have a cafeteria, so we had no choice other than bringing our lunch from home.

Do kids even use lunch boxes today? It's something I haven't looked for in a long time since my kids are homeschooled. I'm sure if they do, they're a lot different than what I used. I'm sure the bags are all insulated and come with cooling packs. The first lunch box I remember was an old metal type. It wasn't anything fancy. It was a simple red plaid design, very much like the one at the bottom of this post. I'm pretty sure I picked it out, but I bet my mom was a big influence with her love for plaid. (I have pictures of me in plaid dresses and pants to prove that.) It's funny when I think about it because I can almost still smell what the inside of those old metal boxes smelled like. It's hard to explain, but I guess some things stay with you forever. Then I remember getting the box in the picture up top with Snoopy. I loved that lunch box! I never had the metal version because that came out in the 60s. By the time I got mine, they had switched to plastic. I think sometime in between the plaid box and the plastic Snoopy dome box, I also had a metal Peanuts lunch box. I don't remember exactly which one, but I'm thinking it was this ...

Reading the replies on Lisa's post was fun. I remembered some of the boxes people mentioned. Some really showed their age though, like me with the older boxes or others saying they had Spice Girls on theirs. I had to laugh when I looked at vintage lunch boxes on eBay and saw things like New Kids On The Block. I guess that was a long time ago for some, but I go way further back than that. How about you? Did you carry a lunch box when you were a kid? Or did you use paper bags? I eventually went to bags, but I'm not sure when that was. I remember when the "Have A Nice Day!" campaign came out and I was so excited about having happy faces on my lunch bags. It's funny the things we remember sometimes ...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just a heads-up ...

Beginning on June 1st through June 22nd, I will be running a coloring contest for kids ages 10 and under. It's for Lemur Troops & Critter Groups. Nikki Shoemaker, who did such a wonderful job illustrating the book, has given me a nice black & white copy of one of the pages for children to color. Nikki will also be running the contest on her blog. I will choose one winner for a special prize and then everyone who enters will be put into a drawing for a chance to win a copy of the second book in the series -- Stork Musters & Critter Clusters. I'll keep you posted, but just wanted to let you know it's coming up. Tell your kids to get their crayons and markers ready!

In the meantime, if you want to check out the book trailer for Lemur Troops & Critter Groups click here. I've had a lot of fun making these trailers and am looking forward to making more for my upcoming books.

Also, I've redesigned my website for the third time. If you want to check it out, click here. The first two I did using a template, but this last one I did on my own. Maybe in about a hundred years I'll know what I'm doing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weirdos ...

I swear, I have the weirdest family sometimes. They crack me up with things they say. Here are few of the more recent ones ...

"If you get married again, I'm moving out." -- Neil
"I dreamt you put me in a mental hospital." -- Rick
"They were feeding me liver, onions, and pancakes." -- Rick
"Do the eggs come out of their butts?" -- Nathan
"When I push on my eyeballs, I see cities." -- Neil
"I dreamt teeth were growing out of my tongue!" -- Nathan
"Where did my eyelashes go?" -- Rick
"Maybe we should get a puppy." -- Nathan

I have to admit, that last one made me laugh the hardest. A puppy -- yeah, right. Who needs a puppy when I have a houseful of clowns?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Squirrely Artwork

Lately I've been working on my kid's yearbook for school. That means I'm spending a lot of time in my photo files on my computer. I'm sure you all know how that goes. I go looking for one thing and end up spending 15 minutes looking at something totally different. Anyway, I came across these squirrel pictures today. My girls made these back in 2002. At the end of every school year, I collect all my kid's work and put it into 3" binders. Some projects, like these squirrels, are too bulky so I take pictures of them instead.

It's kind of funny though because back when the girls made these, I wasn't into squirrels much. In fact, I'd chase them away from the feeder when I lived in California because they scared all the birds away. It's a totally different story now and I'm usually chasing the turkeys or woodpeckers away so the squirrels can eat. My attitude for them has totally changed. I cried when one died from old age on my deck last year. I was heartbroken when I saw another one with its back legs paralyzed. I've been entertained watching the three babies grow up. The stupid little things have really grown on me. Some people hate squirrels, but I find them fascinating.

One of my favorite movies is Funny Farm with Chevy Chase. He plays a sports writer who moves from the big city out to the country so he can be a novelist. As he settles in, he's hit with writer's block and becomes distracted by everything but writing. In the meantime, his wife writes a children's book about a squirrel, who represents her husband moving from the city to the country. She ends up selling her story, which sends him down into his depression even more. If you haven't seen this movie, you should. It's hilarious at times. And of course, I like it because of the squirrel.

I've been playing with the idea of making a page on Facebook for people to post pictures of their kid's artwork. I looked and there wasn't anything like that, not for children's stuff anyway. What do you think? If there was a page like that, would you be willing to post pictures of your kid's artwork projects?

Friday, May 21, 2010

More YELLOW ...

It's funny how I posted about yellow flowers yesterday. I was sitting in bed looking online and sipping coffee when I saw a yellow bird fly up to my feeder. I've seen these birds before, but they don't come around as often as the others. I believe these are Evening Grosbeaks and a member of the finch family. They're common birds and found all over North America, so I'm sure a lot of you have seen them before. The male was the only one on the feeder at first, but he was soon joined by the lighter female. I snapped a few pictures, through my very dirty window. They flew off a little while later and then the feeder was attacked by a dozen little house finch. Then the squirrel chased everyone away, of course, and is on high bird alert as she eats her breakfast. I thought it was funny ... yellow flowers yesterday and yellow birds today. What will tomorrow bring? Yellow jackets? A yellow bear?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The YELLOWS are here!

In addition to all the dandelions we have sprouting up everywhere, we're just now starting to see some yellow flowers appear in our yard. I am pretty sure the top picture is a Glacier Lily. I could be wrong, but that's what I think it is, in its early stage. I've read that people have tried to plant them in their gardens, but they usually fail. I guess we're lucky to have them growing in the yard as wildflowers.

The bottom picture is of Creeping Oregon Grape. Later on, the yellow flowers will give way to purple berries, or grapes. We see these all over. I've tasted them and they're pretty tart. I think you can make a lemonade type drink from them, as well as use them in jelly. The American Indians used these for all sorts of stuff -- from helping with childbirth to fighting infections to healing wounds.

I have a really cool book called Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers by H. Wayne Phillips. What I love about it is that it separates the flowers by color. That makes it super easy to look them up.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The eyes have it ...

Have you ever been to a hot air balloon festival? Or have you been IN a hot air balloon? I've only been to one festival, back when we lived in California. It was the Temecula Wine Festival, I believe, and I went up in a tethered balloon for a short time. Very freaky for me! I've always wanted to go to the big festival in New Mexico. Maybe someday. We see hot air balloons from time to time in Montana, but I'm not sure if there are any festivals around here. The boys were really young when we went. As I was looking at some pictures today, I saw one of Neil looking up at the balloons. When I cropped it to see just his eyes, I came up with the picture above. I'm not sure how well you can see it, but there are reflections of the balloons in his eyes.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I'm tired! Not only that, but I'm starting to hurt all over now. It's been a long day. This morning I was in bed, trying to wake up, while watching the squirrel eat in the feeder out on my deck. A picture book idea hit me in the head, so it wasn't long before I had my laptop in front of me and I was typing away. It turned out to be a very short picture book, but that's okay. And yes, it's about squirrels.

Then I did school with the boys. We're at the end of the year and most of our books are either completed or close to being done. This week we're doing Little Red Riding Hood Week at school. I know that might sound a little babyish, but we're going to have fun with it. Today I read a child friendly version of the story from a picture book. Then the boys did some simple crafts. Tomorrow I'm reading the original Grimm's version. I also found lots of activities to go with the story online. There's even a section that talks all about wolves, so that will be interesting.

After school, we decided to go for a bike ride along the Swan River. It's pretty close to our house, but we did need to drive to the trail head. There's a nature trail that's fun to ride on. It's a 4-mile ride round-trip. After we were done, the river was looking really nice and we just happened to have our kayaks still on our van. We had put them up on Saturday when we went to Glacier, but it got too windy to go out that day. So, after our bike ride today, we put the kayaks in the Swan River and paddled around for a bit. Rick and I are both moaning and groaning now because we haven't used those paddling muscles in awhile. The picture above is the Swan River. We live on that mountain in the background, but more on the other side of the mountain.

Then we came home and had dinner. As I was filling the dishwasher, I remembered we were out of Cascade, so I had to drive down to the store to buy more. After a day like today, I wasn't about to do the dishes by hand. As soon as I got home, the boys wanted me to play Sliders with them. It's a board game by the same company that makes SORRY! So anyway, I'm pretty tired right now and am seriously thinking of hitting the hay. And if today wasn't crazy enough, I get to have a root canal on Wednesday. Lucky me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I feel pretty, oh, so pretty!

I was going to post this picture today and say something silly like, "You look mahvelous, darlin'!" Then I cropped the picture to make it show up better. That's when I saw the tooth sticking out. Oh my gosh -- how funny is that! Click on the picture to see it bigger. I'm pretty sure this is an alpaca, not a llama. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong because I always confuse the two. I took this picture at The Mirage in Las Vegas, at the Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden. Stupid as it may be, they don't list these animals on their site. They only list the cool animals like lions, tigers, leopards, and dolphins. But there are others like alpacas and swans. So, being the animal nerd I am, had to look up alpacas to see what I could find ...
  • Alpacas come from South America.
  • They live at altitudes between 3,500 to 5,000 feet.
  • Alpacas are smaller than llamas.
  • They were bread for their fiber, or hair.
  • Unlike sheep, alpaca fiber has no lanolin.
  • Alpaca fiber is naturally water-resistant.
  • The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors.
  • Alpacas can be bred with llamas, offspring called huarizo.
  • Not all alpacas spit, but they're capable of it.
  • They don't like having their feet, legs, or belly touched.
  • Alpacas use communal dung piles.
  • Twin alpaca births are rare, only 1/1000.
  • They eat hay, grass, and leaves.
  • Alpacas chew their cud.
  • The need their nails and teeth trimmed every year.

I guess it's time for that tooth trimming for this little guy or gal. I've seen a few alpacas on farms around here. Funny looking things, that's for sure!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To outline, or not ...

The other day on Facebook one of my writer friends posted a video clip of an interview by the paranormal author Sherrilyn Kenyon. Now I write picture books and occasional I give a shot at middle grade stuff. I'm not into young adult or adult novels that much, especially ones about vampires and spooky stuff. I'm such a wimp. But for whatever reason, and maybe it was Sherrilyn's eyeshadow, I was sucked into this video clip. She's a funny lady and seems like one of those people you'd just love to hang around with. One of her readers asked if she makes outlines. She replied with this ...

  1. "If I knew where it was going, it would be done. I wouldn't want to write it."
  2. "I write to figure out how it's gonna end."

Those two things really stood out for me. I used an outline with my first middle grade and it worked really well. Before I even wrote the story, I had an idea of what I wanted to happen from beginning to end. The outline guided me, but I later added to it. My second middle grade (the one I'm submitting now) I didn't write an outline. I started to, but when the writing actually began, it took off in its own direction. And because of that, the story completely changed from my original idea. That was fun. The one I'm working on now is totally different. I have an idea of what I want it to be about, but there's no way I can outline. It's just sort of -- happening.

Do you outline, or do you let your stories go their own way?

If you'd like to watch Sherrilyn's interview, click here. It's pretty interesting, even just to see her crazy eyeshadow. I'm not familiar with her, but she has like a gazillion books on the bestsellers list. I'm sure there's a story behind her green, sparkly eyeshadow too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tilly's Tale

Tilly's Tale has been out for awhile, but I just now got around to reading it. Believe me, I have a huge stack of books that I want to read. Anyway, today is such a nice day and Neil wanted to ride his bike in the driveway, so I decided to do a little reading. Tilly's Tale is a story of a little rescued dog. The book is written in Tilly's own words. Here's the blurb from the cover ...

Rescued when life looked bleak and her future uncertain, Tilly found love and a new purpose in her life. Read Tilly's story in her own "words", share the highs and the lows of her struggle to be loved and wanted, and be prepared to fall in love with this very special terrier.

Tilly's Tale is written by Harry Porter, illustrated by Mandy Hedrick, and published by 4RV Publishing, LLC. It would be a perfect book for children just getting into chapter books. However, any animal lover will enjoy this book, no matter their age. Tilly's Tale is the first book in a series called Harry Porter's Dogs Tales, featuring his dogs who were all rescued from bad situations. Click here to order a copy of it from 4RV Publishing, LLC. This book would make a great gift for anyone who loves animals.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I guess it pays to have a mother-in-law who is a retired teacher! The other day she sent me a box filled with these books. A lot relate to US history, so that's cool. And there's even one for egg carton crafts, so that's really cool. Ha ha -- guess you know where my interest is! Awhile back, she sent me a huge box of craft supplies. I swear, we have construction paper coming out of our ears! Not to mention pom-poms, pipe cleaners, glue, extra scissors, stencils, and more. Anyway, these books were a nice, unexpected surprise.

Have you had any unexpected surprises lately?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What a cutie!

I found this picture yesterday when I was digging through some old photographs. This is my youngest, Neil. He's eight now. I love his smile and crazy blond hair. This must have been taken around 2003. It was taken at the East Glacier Park Lodge. It's a beautiful place, but it's a little ways from the park itself. The irony of this picture is that it was our very first trip to northwest Montana and to Glacier National Park. Now we live just an hour from the west entrance of the park. Who would have thought ...

In other news, Lydia Kang at The Word is My Oyster gave me the Blogger Buddy Award. Thank you, Lydia! I'm not sure of the rules of this particular one, but I would like to pass it onto my fellow blogger buddies ...
  1. Terry Lynn Johnson -- who posts cool outdoors pics.
  2. Kimberly Lynn -- who suggests great picture books.
  3. Nora MacFarlane -- who always has great tips for writers.
  4. Elysabeth Eldering -- who has a fun geography book series.
  5. Kelly Polark -- who's blog features just about everything.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Death Valley ...

Just recently I blogged about visiting Death Valley National Park in California. You can click here for the original post. We've only been there one time, but if I ever get back down that way, it's one place I'd love to go back to. I was digging through some boxes of photographs today when I came across a bunch from that trip. Rather than post them all, I made a quick slide show of some of them. There's a few pictures where the ground is really rocky. That's the Devil's Golf Course that I mentioned before. Some of the canyon shots might look familiar to you if you've ever seen Star Wars IV. They filmed some of the movie there, such as R2D2 rolling through the canyons right before the sand people got him. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the other pictures from our trip to Death Valley National Park.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toothaches and novels ...

I hope to get caught up with everyone's blogs tonight. I haven't updated mine in a few days, which is unlike me. I've had good reasons though. Wednesday night I came down with a terrible toothache and I knew it needed a root canal. I'm no dentist, and I'm certainly no psychic, but I am experienced when it comes to dental problems. My dentist got me in on Thursday to check it out, and sure enough, it needs a root canal. The bad news was that he is all booked up until the 19th, so I'm having to wait. The good news is that he's pumped me full of antibiotics, which has managed to relieve the pain considerably. The other good news is that this tooth already has a crown, so that will save a lot. And more good news -- if there has to be any when root canals are concerned -- is that our insurance will pay 80% of this. So, instead of being hit with a $400+ fee with insurance, it's only going to be around $177. So, I'm happy about that. I'm also #1 on the list if anyone cancels, so I might be able to go in sooner. As for now, the meds are helping and I'm no where near in the pain I was Wednesday and Thursday. I pretty much looked like this Laurel & Hardy picture on Wednesday night.

My other reason for being behind is that I'm working on another middle grade story. I recently sent one of mine out on an exclusive submission. I'm sure many of you know how hard it is to sit back and wait. I was trying to think of something to write about when I was struck with a story idea. Believe me, longer story ideas don't come easily to me, so I have to jump on them when they do. So anyway, I've been working on this lately and am just about at 6,000-words so far. My story does relate to fairy tales, which is why I posted the blog below. Thanks to everyone who replied and told me what their favorite fairy tales are. If you didn't reply to that one, I'd still love to hear what your favorites are and why. I hear Disney is doing a Rapunzel movie, so I'm pretty excited about that. It was always one of my favorites.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fairy Tales

What are some of your favorite fairy tales? I loved reading fairy tales as a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and remember watching a lot of them either in animated films or incorporated into cartoons. Loony Tunes has so many fairy tale themes in their cartoons. As a kid, I had a lot of them in book form though -- I still do, for that matter. Some of my favorites are ...
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Cinderella
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Tom Thumb
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Rapunzel
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Gingerbread Man

Click here for a list of fairy tales. Fairy tales tend to be on the dark side, so I'm not sure why I've always been attracted to them. My next book, The Marshmallow Man, is actually a retelling of The Gingerbread Man, but with all new characters and a new ending. There's just something about these old stories I love. I've always made an effort to read these stories to my kids. Do you think most kids today are familiar with these stories much?

How about you -- what are some of your favorite fairy tales?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How do you promote?

Like all writers, I'm interested in ways to promote my books. Mine come from a small publisher, so most of my sales are online or word of mouth. Unlike bigger publishers, my books aren't automatically shipped to stores nationwide. Those of us with books from smaller publishers have to work a little harder getting ours in stores. That's not to say those of you with books from larger houses don't work just as hard. I know you do. What are some things you've done to promote them? I'd love to hear some new ideas!

I recently sent out media kits to local stores that might be interested. I did them by mailing, so I will need to follow up. I also have my blog and I'm on Facebook and JacketFlap. Both Dilly and my Critter Series have fanpages on Facebook. I'm kind of playing around with the idea of making a website just for Dilly, but I don't know if that would be worth the time and effort. What do you think? I belong to a homeschool group and have sent information through their email system. A few have said they've passed my information onto others. I'm going to see if any of them have stores in the area that might be interested in carrying my books. I have yet to do any book signings or readings at local schools, but I'm open to that. I've also started hanging up flyers on all the local bulletin boards. I'm not sure if that will do any good, but I figured it wouldn't hurt. All it costs is a piece of paper and a thumbtack. There's a local paper here that accepts free online classified ads, so I have my books listed there. The other day I saw someone on Facebook mention they were signing books at their local farmer's market. Has anyone tried that? I've seen craft-like things at our local markets, but never books. I might have to look into that if it's not too expensive.

Unfortunately, our local libraries won't carry my books because they are not hard cover. They said soft cover books only get checked out 1-2 times before they start falling apart. That's pretty sad, but I guess some kids can be pretty rough. Not much I can do about the library thing, but they do have a bulletin board in the hallway, so I have my flyer there -- right at eye level of a five-year-old! I have business cards and I've also made bookmarks, magnets, and postcards. Some of you have been wonderful helping me promote my books by blogging about them, offering contests, doing author interviews, and stuff like that. A few have even given copies of my books to your kid's schools. I appreciate that so much! I'm always open to doing book reviews for other people's books. If anyone would like to do that with me, just let me know. And finally, to all of you who have even looked at my book covers or read anything I've ever written about them -- thank you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Death Valley

Have you ever been to Death Valley National Park? It's an incredible place. It's a weird place. It's almost an out-of-this-world place. We drove for nearly an hour and never even saw a bug hit the windshield. Some parts of the park are so devoid of life that it's scary. I suppose when people hear the name Death Valley, they think of relentless heat. Temperatures can go over 120 degrees in summer. The camping season doesn't even begin until fall. Spring is the best time to visit because the place comes alive with wildflowers. We were there in 2001, right after Nathan was born. We went in February and it was below freezing at night -- and we were in a pop-up trailer -- brrr!

The picture above was taken at Badwater Basin -- 282 feet below sea level. There are some spectacular places to see in Death Valley, even more so if you have a 4x4 that can go on rougher roads. There are incredible sand dunes in the park. The girls brought snow discs and had a blast sliding down the hills. There's another place called the Devil's Golfcourse, which you just have to see to believe. One of the highlights for us happened right as we were leaving the park to go home. A roadrunner ran out in front of our car and a few seconds later we saw a coyote behind it. It was straight out of Looney Tunes. Even though it seems desolate, wildlife is abundant. The park is home to coyotes, mountain lions, ravens, ground squirrels, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and even bighorn in the mountains.

Death Valley was home to the Timbisha Tribe of American Indians. It didn't get it's English name until the time of the Gold Rush when prospectors decided to cross the valley searching for gold. Only one death was reported during that time, but the name still stuck. Gold and silver were found in the valley, but it was salt and borax that people eventually came for. The picture below was taken at the sand dunes. Rick looks pretty ticked off, but he's not. It's exhaustion. He thought it would be fun to run to the tallest sand dune they could find. They're farther away than they look! If I ever get back down to California, I want to go back to this park. It's one of those places you just have to see and experience for yourself.

What comes to mind when you hear the name -- Death Valley?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Walking Dilly Puppet

This was yesterday's craft project for our Dilly Week at school. This project was originally from Family Fun Magazine and the Family Fun Crafts book. We simply turned them into little Dilly finger puppets. Kids can put their fingers into his legs and make him walk around. Later today I will type up the directions and add it to Dilly's Activity Pages, which you can find on my website. I will post more of our projects as the week goes by. Today we're doing something with tissue boxes! I hope you enjoy seeing them. Go Dilly!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dang, it's windy!

We had to run up to town this afternoon to return something to Walmart. When we left the house, it was raining and the winds were really picking up. There were branches down everywhere and we noticed a few trees down in our neighborhood. When we came home, we saw this (picture above) in our yard. Bummer. It was one of our favorite trees. Our next door neighbors have an aspen lying across their lawn. I guess the winds got pretty wild for the short time we were away. Rick's got the tree all cut up now and we're hoping we don't lose any more. The 30+mph winds are supposed to stay around until tomorrow night. This tree landed about 6 feet from our house. The scary thing is that the tree to the left of it is way, way taller.

I had a yucky night. Some of you know I get really bad back spasms from time to time. When I went to bed last night, I had a funny feeling in my chest. I thought maybe I had eaten too much at dinner or something. I woke up at 1:30am with the spasms and then realized that was the pain I was feeling earlier. I should have recognized it. So, I was miserable for nearly 2 hours until my medications kicked it. I got out our massager pad thing and that helped a lot. But of course, I'm a zombie today from the meds and still not feeling all that great. Between back spasms and downed pine trees, it's been a yucky day. I hope yours is going better!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's Dilly Week!

This is Dilly Week for the boys at school. It's only for craft projects, as we're still doing all the academic stuff. The boys love Dilly, so they're looking foward to it. I have posted a few of my Dilly crafts on my blog before ...

I have all new crafts planned for the boys this week, so that will be fun. I just realized I don't have Dilly's Craft Page up on my new website though. Awhile back, I separated it from Dilly's Activity Pages, but now I'm thinking I will add them back into the same file. If you go to my website and click on A New Job for Dilly, there's a link to activities your child can do after reading the book. I will try to get the crafts back up there as soon as I can.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jones Wild Animal Park

Crazy night last night! I stayed up late working on my website and getting frustrated because every time I uploaded it online, something wasn't working right and I couldn't figure out why. In the meantime, I heard something on the deck, so I got up to see what it was. It was this little raccoon. I took some pictures, but they didn't come out all that great. Anyway, he munched on the seeds for awhile and then wandered off, so I went back to my computer. A bit later, I heard noise again, so I figured he was back. I grabbed my camera and walked up to our glass doors again, hoping to get some better pictures. Except, it wasn't my raccoony friend.

It was a BEAR!

And it wasn't just any old bear either. It was a BIG black bear! I mean, really big! It's back almost went up to the railing on my deck. A big, big bear! Since I was expecting the raccoon, I stumbled with my camera and got a good picture of my shirt reflection in the window. By the time I got ready to take another one, the bear had made eye contact with me and ran down the deck and back out into the yard. I had gotten pretty relaxed about leaving the seeds out, especially with all the late snow. And besides, we haven't seen any bears here in a very long time, so I thought maybe all the construction over the hill had sent them somewhere else. I was wrong. This guy was huge. I'm not sure if it was the cub that used to come around a little over a year ago, or if this was a new one. It certainly wasn't the momma bear that used to come around. All I know is that this sucker was BIG! However, we brought everything in and he didn't come back during the night. At least not ON the deck, but he could have been wandering around under it or in the yard. I know they do that a lot even when we don't see them.

Anyway, I'm pooped now because I stayed up past 1am, which is something I never do. And then it was one of those restless nights where I left the blinds open and slept with one eye open as well. I did, however, finally figure out why my website was acting up, so at least I got that fixed. As I said before, I totally redesigned my site. I was initially going to make it more colorful and child-like since I write picture books. However, I found a black & white template I liked a lot, so I went with that instead. Click here if you would like to see the new site. If for some reason something doesn't look right or work right for you, please let me know so I can try to fix it. Thanks!

Oh, and one more thing -- guess what I dreamt about? Yep, bears! I dreamt there was a momma bear and a cub on my deck. I was on the phone with my neighbor, so I told her I had to call her back. I went to shoo the bears off and the cub jumped down first, followed by the momma bear. Next thing I know, I'm over the deck railing (which is a long way down) shooing the baby off again. Suddenly, I see the momma bear's back is ON FIRE! I run up to this huge black bear -- remember, this is a dream, which is hard to tell with me sometimes -- and I'm whacking the fire out with one of my manuscripts! She stands there looking at me like I was nuts. Crazy night!