Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat?

It's a quarter to nine and we are back from a rigorous night of trick or treating with the little ghouls. WHEW

We forgot to take pictures before we left (hey, we were in a hurry) so we got some after we got home . . . and I almost forgot to take any. Oldest son is still doing the haunted house with the Drama department so he's not home yet and isn't in any of the pictures. If he comes home in costume, I'll snap some of him in his zombie costume.

Anyway, here we are in our bedraggled state of after trick or treating.

Me and my main Vamp:

Halloween 09 

My hair used to be all curled and pretty, but after a night of wind, it sort of fell flat. Oh well.

Here are the little ghouls:

Halloween 09 2

It's hard to tell from these pictures, but the girls and I have the same dresses (they took off their neck pieces) and Hubby's costume matches ours.

Anyway, I hope you all had a great night!

Scare on . . . or sleep on if you're tired like me.

Halloween insanity

Tonight the little monsters will be getting bags full of sugary candy to appease the less angelic side in the hopes no pranks will be carried out. Ah, the joys of Halloween. =D

Each year our church holds a little fall carnival in the parking lot along with a chili contest/dinner, pumpkin carving contest, and costume contest (though no masks are allowed). After the carnival fun and contests, there is a trunk or treat (the kids go around to the cars in the parking lot).

In the past, I have entered (and placed) in the chili and pumpkin contests, but I have never dressed up in a costume. I've just never been that into it. However, this year I shall join the ranks of the costumed adults.

I'm not sure what has gotten into me. Sure, I wear a costume for my sister's annual Halloween bash (last weekend), but only my sisters and mother attend so it's not a huge deal. This time I shall don a costume and venture out into public places. I get chills just thinking about it.

My husband has never dressed up either, but this year, I bought him a costume. He's going as a vampire and I'm his matching vampress. Yee-aah, that's what I said . . . we match . . .  I swore I'd never be part of one of those couples who dress up in coordinating costumes. Something is definitely wrong with me . . . a midlife crisis perhaps?

But I have more proof of my insanity. My daughters decided they wanted to be vampire/witch/princesses so their dresses actually match mine. I even tried to convince my sons to switch from their chosen costumes to matching daddy/vampire costumes . . . luckily they refused so my shame is slightly more bearable.

I'm not sure what I was thinking! I'm half tempted NOT to dress up, but I know hubby won't let me get away with spending all the money on the costuming for it to not be used.

Oh well, I still have several hours of carving pumpkins, chili cooking (maybe . . . I haven't decided if I'm going there this year), and a birthday costume party (K's friend) to prepare for before I must fret more about my moment of insanity.

Hmmm . . . now that I think about it, I've been reaching back into my childhood as I write. Perhaps I've gained access to the child part of me who LOVED to dress up . . . yeah, that must be it! See, it's not insanity or midlife crisis . . . it's a side effect of the job. WHEW!

May you all have a great day and night full of hauntingly good fun.

Spook on.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fraction

It's Friday and you know what that means?! Time for another excerpt from one of my novels in progress.  Today I chose to go with a portion of the newly revised first chapter from WOLFSBANE AT MIDNIGHT.  Scarlet is in the herb garden in the heart of the forest . . .


"One arnica flower, one white poppy flower, one small garlic bulb, and one bloodroot rhizome," she read. And then she noticed a scrawl at the bottom, "Please return with these potion ingredients before sunset."

Why hadn't Grandmother Aradia said something before she left? She knew Scarlet loved to wander in the forest. Especially now when the trees gifted her with a canopy of vibrant color and a carpet of crunchy leaves to enjoy. Aradia had scolded her many times for her slowness, but had never given her a deadline before. Scarlet pushed the list back into her pocket. She had set out late in the afternoon, so she knew she needed to hurry if she hoped to return in time.

Shoving her hands into her brown leather gloves, she used the herb knife to cut a yellow-orange bloom from the stem of an arnica plant. After wrapping the daisy-like flower in a piece of cheesecloth, she placed it in her basket. She hurried on to collect one of the delicate white flowers from the stem of a poppy plant.

Icy fingers of fear trailed down her spine.

Someone or something watched her. She tightened her hand around the herb knife. The blade might be small, but it was sharp. Scarlet walked to the herb basket and dropped the poppy flower into it.

She wanted nothing more than to run from the clearing, but she'd returned once before without the herbs and couldn't face Aradia's disappointment again. Despite the pounding of her heart and her brain telling her to flee, she reached for the garden trowel. Her hand shook as she stabbed it into the soft ground and hurriedly dug up the garlic. Normally she'd push the rich black soil back in place, but she left it with the promise of fixing it tomorrow.

She tossed the garlic into the basket and hurried down the row to the bloodroot. A web pulled at her hair as she bent down. She brushed it aside and hoped the spider hadn't found its way onto her head. Digging even more quickly, and damaging a few roots in the process, she managed to expose a suitable rhizome and harvested it.

Somewhere close by, a branch snapped.

She swung her head to the left.

Yellow eyes gleamed from behind a nearby tree.

Scarlet's eyes locked with the glittering ones of a wolf as it stepped from the shadows.


And that's all for today. Happy weekend to everyone.

Write on.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One project down . . .

The fence is finished. I put up the gate, got the porch blocked off and the dogs are once again running free in the back yard. =D They're happy, I'm happy, and my kids are happy.

finished fence

Yeah, I had to put those plastic pieces along the bottom because I raised the gate up too high and the little puppies could slip through. It opens the other way so it'll do for now  . . . until hubby can fix it because I've had enough of it. LOL The kids are happy to have their trampoline area be a dog free zone.

finished fence other side 

"Ha ha," I said to them. "You can't get through!" And it felt so good to say it to them. ;-)

finished fence happy pups

They're so happy to play in the leaves.

The next step is to give them baths (all 11 of them) so they'll be nice and clean again . . . but that will have to wait for another day because it's too cold here right now.

Now I have to build the laundry hampers (yeah, didn't get that finished before class last night) and get the laundry sorted. But that will also have to wait for another day because I'm going to do some revising!! I think I've earned a writing break, don't you?

Write on.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Building fences . . . an explanation

Okay, I said I was building a fence and I think it needs some clarification. Yes, I'm really building a fence, and I'm doing it completely on my own without any help from anyone else (because I'm stubborn) . . . but I'm cheating so I'm not sure it counts.

First of all, why am I building a fence?

My neighbors have big Boxer dogs and I have little Toy Fox Terrier Dogs. We already have a chain link fence around our entire back yard, but since it's on the property line, the neighbors share our west side of the fence. Their dogs and my dogs don't get along. So for the last several months, my poor little doggies who used to run free in the grass of my back yard have been confined to the dusty what-used-to-be-a-garden area, shown here:

dusty garden area

While they are small dogs and the garden area is quite large, it is dusty. This isn't a problem until I bring them into the kennels in the laundry room at night (because I can't let them be out barking at the neighbor's dogs all night). Because they are dogs, they like to shake their fur (you know what I mean, right?) and my laundry room ends up looking like this (note, I dusted this on Friday and this is what it looks like already):

dusty laundry room

I'm SICK of dusting!! When doggies ran free on the grass, we didn't have all the dust. Sure, we had grass clippings on the floor, but all I had to do was sweep them back out the door. They never got all over my walls and washer and dryer. *sigh*

Besides, do these puppies look happy to be fenced up in the dust to you?

dusty puppies

So, I took apart my huge dog kennel and have been putting it along the sidewalk and shed on the west side of our yard. I'm not having to stretch the chain link or anything since it was already put together on the kennel.

fence 2

I'm simply pounding these

fencing posts

into the ground to help stabilize the heavy kennel panels and binding them together:

fencing post closeup

I have also been building this

fence for porch 1

to block access to the other side from the porch (which extends beyond the sidewalk into the west side of the yard). I still have to finish the gate

gate needing fixed

and attach it to complete the blockade. I have also had to do this

fence to block access from porch

along the bottom of the porch (same mesh and wood as the blockade on the porch with the addition of pretty plastic to try to make it look nicer). I still have to make a similar contraption to block these parts on the sides of the cement steps

fencing needed

fencing needed1 .

So my projects are not quite done, but I'm getting there (and yes, I know the porch needs painted, that's on hubby's list of things to do . . . I already bought the paint for the outside of the house and the porch . . . I may end up doing THAT project on my own too). Oh, and on an annoying note, the kennel pieces didn't quite stretch all the way from the porch to the back fence. Luckily there is a shed to help make up the difference (yes those pieces of firewood are blocking access to under the shed).

fencing lacking 1

Hey, a girl can only do so much! ;-)

And there you have it. And to think all this started because I was sick of dusting . . . after all the struggling to lift the heavy kennel pieces and maneuver them into place (not to mention the pounding, pounding, pounding with the hammer to build the porch blockade), the dusting doesn't seem so bad. =)

Build on!

Monday Mania

Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Yeah, that's why I'm in this predicament in the first place!

I have not quite finished up the newsletter (need to do a final read through) so I've got to do that this morning.

I didn't get the fence in the back yard finished so that needs to be done.

I have homework (reading) for class tonight.

I have laundry all over the floor. This must be remedied right after the newsletter (which will be taken care of after I post this). Why is the laundry all over the floor instead of in the laundry hampers? Because the poor old laundry hampers had had enough and broke! Yeah, it's a sad, sad thing. They served us well for many years, but the hampers finally keeled over. It might have had something to do with the fact that I've not kept up on the laundry over the last several months. This made the hampers full to overflowing, and the kids resorted to shoving the clothing down into the hampers in an effort to keep the floor clean. Yeah, poor hampers can't take that kind of abuse month after month. I'm surprised the clothing hamper police didn't come arrest me and throw me away, such was the abuse occurring in my home.

Alas, this morning found me purchasing new hampers (for the one hubby and I share also suffered so much abuse that it is beyond saving). I spent the weekend washing clothes, but I still didn't get ALL the laundry finished. So there will still be clothes to fill the new hampers . . . which is kind of depressing.

Anyway, it will be an adventure to sort through all the laundry this morning and continue the washing/drying process so when my kids get home, they can start folding/hanging their laundry and putting it away. No more will clean laundry have a place on my couch (where it has comfortably watched television with the family for the past few months)! No, my friends, the laundry will once again be banished to the drawers/closets where it belongs. No more will hampers be filled to overflowing and abused until they finally collapse.

Yeah, it's going to be a rough week. BUT, I have decided I will only devote a few hours to chores so I will still have writing time before the kids come home. I mean, I can still do laundry once they are home, but I can't get any writing done once the little monkeys return from school.

Oh . . . I still have three reviews I need to write for also. Yeah, I've got to get to those today too. Hope you all have a great day! Wish me luck with mine. =D

Write on.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fraction . . . and birds

Okay, before I get to the Friday Fraction, let's deal with the birds issue. I joined Twitter a while back and have had no luck in figuring it out. I fly to my nest now and then to "tweet" (that's what it's called right?) but I have NO IDEA what it's supposed to do for me other than make me feel silly and confused. Silly because I feel like I'm talking to myself (though I have a few followers) and confused because I have no idea what the purpose of twitter is.

Birds travel in flocks and I'm assuming twittering is supposed to help you connect with people like blogging and Facebook, but I just don't get it. I have a few people that I've found and I hear their tweets on my page, but I'm not sure how to "communicate" with other people. Is there no such thing as communicating on twitter? Do you just tweet and let it float out there with no one to answer?

If you'd like to add me to your flock, I'm justJoanS. Also if you'd like to explain the whole twitter thing to me, I'd be eternally in your debt. I'd offer to name a child after you, but I'm done having children so you'll have to accept my undying gratitude instead.

Okay, now that the bird issue has flown south, let's get to the Friday Fraction.

Today's excerpt comes from my WIP (as in still being written) young adult novel,  BEAUTY: A MYSTERY SOLVED (lame title, but it's a WIP people!!). Here we go:

Dad says Mom picked my name. Maybe she thought naming me Beauty would make it so. She was wrong. Or maybe she really thought I was beautiful. I've seen my baby pictures, and if she thought my wrinkly pink face with too large eyes and mess of frizzy black hair was beautiful, she needed an eye exam.

Perhaps I could be beautiful. I don't know. I've never tried. Why should I? I was condemned to sub-zero status on the first day of kindergarten and haven't moved even a millimeter up the hotness chart since.

I've often wondered if things would be different if Mom had lived past my fourth birthday. From the photographs I've seen, she was beautiful and maybe I could have learned a thing or two from her.

Dad insists my stepmother, Candy, could give me a few beauty tips. Maybe he's right, since she certainly taught my stepsister, Melody, how to spritz, spray, powder, and gloss her way up the hotness chart. But I can't bring myself to ask for advice from a grown woman who dresses like a high school girl and has invested enough money in cosmetics to pay for my first year of college.

As for my stepsister? She's too busy idolizing miss popularity, Charity Davis, to pay any attention to me. No one ever paid attention to me. I liked it. But my days of invisibility ended when Charity went and got herself murdered and I became the prime suspect.


And that's all for today.

Write on.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday thoughts

Hello out there . . .

After a crazy weekend of the huge family yard sale at my sister's house (didn't sell as much as I'd hoped) and a crazy week of sick kids (I don't think it's over as it hasn't been through all of them yet) and building a fence in the back yard (I'm doing it all by myself), I'm back to blogging.

I've not had time for much writing other than the ANWA newsletter . . . I don't remember if I told you about that new adventure . . . . if I didn't, I'm the new editor of the ANWA Newsletter . . . there, I've told you. I have only caught up on a few blogs, but I spent today volunteering at my kids' school. I'll be back there tomorrow morning to volunteer again and tomorrow afternoon will be devoted to making a costume for Saturday's party and getting my house in order before I run off to said party on Saturday. And then there's the homework I'm behind on, and the reading/reviewing I'm behind on . . . Alas, I'm resigned to the fact that my revisions will have to wait until next week.

However, I've been thinking about writing and pondering more about my MG idea for Nano. I've been torn about whether to do the MG or the YA idea, but I'm leaning more toward the MG. Since it has been so recently in my thoughts as I plot and plan it out in my mind, I'm beginning to think my decision has been made for me.

But there are ten more days until Nano officially starts and that's plenty of time for a brand new idea to take over.

Though I'm running behind and feeling the pressure to get things done, I'm not overly stressed about it which is a huge thing for me. Maybe I'm coming down with something as this is so out of character for me, or maybe I'm getting used to being inside the pressure cooker and have learned to keep my calm. Either way, it's nice not to be having panic attacks . . . now I just have to avoid catching the flu from my kids . . .


Write on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Monday . . . AGAIN

Yeah, it's going to be one of those days. *sigh*

Yesterday I worked on revisions in my first chapter only to discover later that evening that I was working from an outdated version of the MS and basically wasted the entire day making revisions I had already done and saved in the updated version. I have so got to label my files better!

Still, I suppose it wasn't a complete waste of time since I did manage a couple of new things I could transfer to the updated file.

As for today, I won't have much time for writing. No, my friends, I get to spend the day cleaning out the shed. This is the shed that contains baby clothes and toys from the past ten years.

I am not even kidding . . . but how I wish I were.

This will likely take the remainder of the day and possibly even some time tomorrow . . . and the next day . . . and the next day . . . and . . . yeah.

Why? Why am I doing this? Because I'm getting ready for a yard sale this weekend. I know shouldn't have waited this long to get to it, but I tend to put off things I don't want to do. It's an illness I've dealt with all my life. There's a word for it Procrastinationitis. Don't laugh, it's a real disease . . . right?

Anywho . . . I'm hoping it will be worth all the effort and I'll make a few $$ at the sale. If nothing else, we'll have room in our shed. Hey, I might even be able to find our Halloween decorations in there (the kids have been bugging to decorate)!

Write on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nagging Novels and Pretty Pictures

I've had an idea nagging at me for some time. It started out as a "What if" scenario and has slowly developed from there. I finally had enough concrete ideas to write a summary last night, so I did.

Now I'm hoping it will leave me alone and allow me to continue working on my current WIP. However, I'm thinking I may go ahead and ditch my YA Nano idea and go for this new MG adventure in November.

You all remembered Nano is next month, right? How many of you are participating this year?

When I'm not distracted by stupid games (CURSE you Facebook!), I'm plugging away at my revisions. Still a ways to go, but I'm getting there.

I've been enjoying Robin's fall pictures on her blog these past few weeks and longing for a fall forest scene of my own. Alas, I have no forests in fall color around here (lots of evergreens though) and have been lamenting this. Today I took a REAL look around me and discovered I don't have a forest, but I DO have some beautiful fall colors right in my own yard (DUH)!

So here are some pictures.

These are my hedges out front

hedges changing

And my peach tree in the back is starting to change

peach tree changing

peach tree changing1

I still wish I had a forest of fall colors to walk through, but this little bit of color will have to do for now.


Write on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Novel Novel Review

It's that time again!

Here's a quick reminder of my rating system

A+--I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book. In most cases, I passed it on to my child/teen.

A--I enjoyed this book and I might pass it on to my child/teen.

B--I liked this book, but probably won't pass it on to my child/teen.

C--I thought it was okay, but I won't pass it on to my child/teen.

D--I didn't like this book, and won't allow my child/teen to read it.

F--I hope I never have to go here. =D

I will give reasons for my rating in my review, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you find your book here, don't panic if I rate it below an A. These are my personal preferences and I'm only one small person in a large market. =D


I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but the book I'm reviewing today isn't a children's book. It isn't even a young adult novel. No, my friends, this book is an adult novel.

It's okay, take a moment to come to terms with the fact that I read adult novels. Hey, I'm allowed. After all, I'm technically an adult. ;-)

Ready? Okay, here we go:

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen

Rating: A

Category:  Romance

Dr. Andy McBride finds the love of his life when he meets Louisa Martin. Unfortunately, her lifestyle is in direct conflict with all he believes. He cannot accept it and she can't escape it. Andy leaves to practice medicine in Kentucky where he hopes to forget Louisa and get on with his life.

The distance from Louisa doesn't keep her from Andy's thoughts. Though he tries to get on with his life, he can't forget her. He immerses himself fully in his new life and new friends, but one of them becomes a bitter enemy who will later bring him heartache much worse than what he felt when he left Louisa behind.

DON'T YOU MARRY THE MORMON BOYS is told through both Andy and Louisa's points of view. We get to know them both; Andy's Mormon beliefs as well as Louisa's polygamist community.

Though they are so different, I couldn't help yearning for them to find some way to be together. And just when it seemed like they'd live happily ever after, Jensen throws in a curve ball that took me by surprise.

I loved DON'T YOU MARRY THE MORMON BOYS with its sweet romance and heartache it kept me turning the pages well into the night. I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with the characters. I even learned a little about their differing beliefs along the way.

I'm not a particular fan of flashbacks and Jensen used this technique often, but it seemed to work for this novel, and once I got used to it, I hardly noticed it anymore. All in all, it was an enjoyable read. Though I didn't pass it on to my teen, I still gave it a high rating because I will definitely pass it on to my siblings and friends.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, if you like your romance with a bit of a twist, I think you'll enjoy DON'T YOU MARRY THE MORMON BOYS.


Write on.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Fraction and conference report

Okay, so it's been a while since I posted. Things have been busy this week as I filled in for the secretary at my kids' elementary school.

Anyway, here is my Friday Fraction. Once again, it's from WOLFSBANE AT MIDNIGHT.

Scarlet rounded the corner. The air was still, as though waiting with baited breath. The closed door and lightless windows of the cottage begged her to leave.

Gooseflesh prickled along her arms and down her neck.

Her reluctant steps carried her to the front door. "Aradia? I'm here. I hurried as fast as I could."

She turned the door handle and pushed.

The door opened a crack but caught on something.

"Aradia?" Scarlet called through the small opening. "Oren?"

No one answered.

Her pulse quickened. She shoved hard against the door. It opened a bit more. After several more heaves, she managed a large enough opening to squeeze inside. Weak moonlight created shadows and illuminated nothing beyond the threshold.

"Grandmother? Oren?" Scarlet's voice sounded shrill and loud.


She bumped into out of place furniture as she felt her way through the blackness."If I were a Wicche, I could conjure light," Scarlet raged.

She pushed past an overturned table, slipping in something wet and nearly falling before she made it into the kitchen. Once there, she slid on what she assumed to be food and banged into a chair. She cursed as pain shot up her leg then settled to a throb in her shin. Limping to the stove, relief flooded through her when she found the kitchen lantern and matches in their place. Moving quickly, she lit the lantern and headed back to the living room. Foot by foot, the light illuminated the destruction.

Smashed furniture and shredded spell books littered the floor.

It was all she could do to hold on to the lantern as her eyes took in the horrendous sight before her.

A scream caught in her throat.


There you have it! And now, on to the conference report.

On September 26th I was pleased to be able to attend the SCBWI Arizona "Welcome to Our House" conference. This was my first conference experience, and it was a blast! Now I know why you people go to these things. ;-)

Here is my ultra condensed version:

My day began with a manuscript critique (first 10 pages) with Bradford Heeys from Blooming Tree Press. I was terrified, but it turned out to be a fantastic experience. He graciously gave me some pointers on how to improve things and told me he liked my writing. What author doesn't like to hear that?!

The first speaker at the conference was Jennifer Rees, Senior Editor from Scholastic Press. She talked about the various imprints of Scholastic and what they publish. She mentioned a few of their authors. She told us what she is looking for. One stand out thing she said:

If your book isn't something she'll want to pass on to others, she's not interested.

Second speaker was Miriam Hees, Publisher from Blooming Tree Press. She spoke about the differences between her small publishing house and the larger publishing houses. She told us what she is looking for. One stand out thing she said:

Don't write what's hot unless you like it a lot.

Our third speaker was Kate Jacobs, Associate Editor from Roaring Brook Press. She compared writing to hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park. Gave us a list of things we'd need for our hike. One stand out thing she said:

Don't be down about the economy. Keep going and follow where the hike takes you.

Our fourth speaker was Laura Rennert, Agent from Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She spoke about what she is looking for and held up examples of books she loves (including SHIVER by the fabulous Maggie Steifvater). She told us how to find an agent and mentioned an online presence (again she mentioned Maggie and her incredible online presence). One stand out thing she said:

The books we love as children shape us and make us who we are as we grow.

Our last speaker was Loraine Joyner, Art Director from Peachtree Publishers. She did a breakdown of what happens from the time they get a picture book until it is finished. She had a very interesting slide show depicting the process an illustrator goes through from first concepts to finished illustrations. One stand out thing she said:

Be patient.

And then it was lunch! It was delicious!

After eating, we went to our breakout sessions. I attended "Getting Your Manuscript Submission Ready" with Miriam Hees (Blooming Tree Press) and "It's Just Bunny Eat Bunny Out There: How to Succeed in the Competitive Picture Book Market with Laura Rennert. They were both fabulous and I learned a great deal.

Finally, it was time for the first pages and first look panel where the faculty gave their opinions on first pages and illustrations. Fun and informative! A brief Q & A session followed and then it was time to head for home.

Yeah, a brief run down that ended up not being very brief, but considering the pages and pages and pages of notes I took, this was only a sampling of the day.

Write on.