Family Friday: Road Trip Games

We like to take road trips. As often as possible. And we don’t like to have people playing electronics or watching movies while we’re driving. In our opinion, road trips are for spending time together and enjoying the scenery.

Which means that we find odd ways to entertain ourselves. We have several games that we play, and some of them run concurrently.

The License Plate game: This is one that is always running in the background. We keep track of the license plates that we see on the way to our destination, and then the plates we see on the way back. We compare the two lists once we get home. We shoot for all fifty states, and then keep track of the “bonus” plates like Washington D.C., Canadian plates, or Mexican plates.

Sign alphabet: Finding all 26 letters, in order, on signs or buildings. This game is harder in some states than others. Texas, for example, seems to like billboards. They’re everywhere. In Kansas, they might be illegal. There just aren’t any signs. In case you’re wondering: J/Q/Z seem to be the hardest letters to find. Which means that we get a little panicky when we see one of them. “I’ve got a ‘J,’ hurry up and find GHI!”

I’m Going alphabet: This is a progressive memory game. We always use the place we’re actually going. One person starts by using ‘A.’ “I’m going to Texas, and I’m taking an apple.” The second person has to add to it. “I’m going to Texas and I’m taking an apple and a banana.” It’s fun, but it gets a little complicated once you get fifteen or so letters in.

My Friend alphabet: This one isn’t as difficult in the memory department, but some letters can take a good bit of creativity. You have to use a male name, a female name, a location, and an item. For example: “My name is Anna, my best friend is Arthur, we’re going to Australia, and we’re taking antelope.” We take turns, moving one letter for each person. What’s funny is that our own letters seem to trip us up. “My name is Katie, my best friend is…umm…” We get so excited about having the first name ready to go that the rest of the information won’t come to the forefront.

Banana: Yeah, it has nothing to do with the fruit. This one also runs continuously. We count anything yellow, with a motor, that’s in motion. There are different point values, too. A car or pickup truck counts 1, motorcycle 2, moving van/big rig/trailer 3, etc. We have points for pretty much everything. (Last year, we even had two instances where we had a yellow plane fly over our heads. “Banana plane” became 20 points.) Before we leave, we write down everyone’s guess for how many banana points we’re going to get. My girls even like to include my parents, so we have to call and get Grandma and Grandpa to give us numbers. Grandpa has an uncanny ability to pick very close to the final total.

What do you do to keep your kids busy on trips?

Muse Monday: Ready For Signings

Now that I’m past the buzz of my second novel being released, I get to start putting everything together to get ready for my first few appearances. In some ways, that’s even more exciting than getting ready for the release, but it’s also nerve-wracking.

Can we say “stage fright”?

In my immediate future, I have three events I’m getting ready for: an elementary school author visit (talking to 7-9 year-olds), a middle school author visit (talking to 11-13 year olds), and a signing at a book store. The book store doesn’t have me nervous at all. I’ve been there before, they’re wonderful people, and I’m really looking forward to going back.

The school visits? I’m terrified.

Is there a tougher audience than a room full of kids? Yeah, a room full of pre-teens. Yikes! Don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to it. I’m just so nervous! Even though I’m going to be talking about the same topic, I’m going to have to present it two very different ways. What interests a seven-year-old probably won’t matter much to a teenager, and vice-versa.

Not only that, but I’m just barely getting accustomed to the fact that I’m the parent when I go my girls’ schools. Part of me still wants to refer to all the teachers as Miss or Mister, and I’m still a little floored when I get to call them by their first names. Now I’m going to go to two schools to be a presenter? Pardon me while I get my head to stop spinning.

I’ll get over it, and I’m sure it will go well. Thanks for letting me release a few nerves. 🙂

In other news, there is something that I wanted to share with all of you: there’s a way you can get a signed copy of my books!

The book store I’m visiting later this month will take orders for either of my novels, I’ll sign them while I’m there, and then they’ll ship them to you. Here’s the link to order. You can order much more than just my books, so take a little look around while you’re there!

Ten days and counting until I start this merry-go-round! This is going to be fun! (Yes, I’m still convincing myself.) 😉

Family Friday: Thank You Notes

Does anybody else still make their kids send thank you notes? We do.

In my house, we celebrate Christmas. Our children received a good number of gifts from various family members and friends this year. The day after Christmas, I sat down at my computer. I opened up a new word document and called my youngest daughter over to me. “Okay, sweetheart. Grandma and Grandpa got you (I listed off the presents from them). What do you want to say in your thank you note?”

She started dictating. “Dear Grandma and Grandpa, thank you for present one, that I’m doing such-and-so with, and thank you for present two, that I’m going to use when I do that other thing, and thank you for present three…” You get the idea. Towards the end of the note, “And I hope you have a wonderful year of 2015, and I hope that we get to see you a lot in 2015 whether you come up here or we come down there or we get to see each other on Skype. I love you. Love, me.” This thank you note was close to what I’d consider three healthy paragraphs, but it was two incredibly long run-on sentences held together with a bunch of “and”s.

We moved on to thank you note number two. It started off very much the way the note to Grandma and Grandpa did. About halfway through the rambling “and and and,” I turned to her and said, “Sweetheart, you do realize that I’m just typing this up to help you, right? I’m going to print it out for you, and you’re going to hand-write all the notes.”

Sheer, abject horror on that eight-year-old face. Somehow, the year between thank you notes was enough time for her to forget the routine.

“So, what else do you want to say in this thank you note?”

“Love, me.”

I cracked up. The first thank you note went on forever. By the time she made it to the end of her thank yous, the note basically said “Dear person, thank you for my present, Love, Me.”

But, by golly, she still sent a thank you to every person who sent her a present. And I’ve got another happy memory to carry with me for the rest of forever. 🙂

Muse Monday: How to Help an Author

How do you support an author? Many ways, but they boil down to three overall categories: Buy, Tell, Forgive.

One – Buy.

Buy their books! It’s the simplest category. I’m not saying that you have to spend fifty dollars on the hard-back/super-high-def/whatever edition. Grab the e-copy for a few bucks. Occasionally, authors and publishers will offer certain books at a discount. Did I mention that my first novel is a free download right now? 😉

Two – Tell.

A) Tell other people. Did you like the book? Did it make you think? Did it make you laugh, cry, jump at the sound of the wind brushing a tree branch against your window? Tell someone. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, word-of-mouth is the highest form of advertising. If you liked it enough to remember to bring it up in conversation, that’s huge.

B) Tell the author. If an author has included an email address, Twitter handle, etc., take 30 seconds to send them something that says “hey, liked your book.” We authors sometimes feel like we’re writing for nobody. Is anyone even reading these things? Okay, we’ve got sales. Yay! But, are the books actually being read? Or are they just landing on a shelf somewhere to collect dust? We worry about things like that. A random message to let us know that you enjoyed it means more than we can tell you. Follow us, friend us, email us. We’d love to hear from you!

C) Tell the internet. Leave a review. Please, please, please leave a review! Did you know that some (many) bookstores won’t carry your book until you have a certain number of reviews? This is especially important for the authors of small publishers. Hop on Amazon and give it a star rating, and add a few words for a review if you have the time. We’re not asking for you to write your own mini-novella to review our novels.

Three – Forgive.

Please, forgive us. We’re emotional, and sometimes a little neurotic. When we get a great review, or a glowing email from a fan, we can brag about it until your ears fall off. When we have a special promotion going on with our books, we can do self-advertising until you’re tired of seeing it. (Like me offering you the link to my free download twice in one blog post.) When we hit the wall that is writer’s block, we can be very grumpy and not much fun to be around. We can go through spells where we blog so often you want to set your email to block us, and then we disappear for no apparent reason. Collectively, we’re sorry about these things. We know that we do them, but we can’t seem to help it. Please forgive us.

 

If you’re reading this, chances are excellent that you’ve done at least one of the above. Thank you for the support!

Prior front cover

Official Cover Reveal

Introducing “The Prior”!

Prior front cover

 

I’ve learned how to jump into pictures and become other people in some alternate reality. I’ve learned how to be a wife, a ruler, a Provider. Now, I’m back in the real world.

Remember when I said somebody might want us all dead? Yeah, so that happened. I mean, it almost happened–that whole jumping-into-pictures thing saved me. For now. But Sarah…she’s still out there, somewhere.

Even though I kind of skipped a few years, I’m legally an adult now, and I’m officially on the run. Now, I have to learn a whole new set of tricks.

Except, well, it turns out I’m having to figure out a lot more stuff than I bargained for. I have to learn how to make it on my own, and I’m trying to find Sarah, and I still have to make sure nobody’s killing off the people who share my talent, so now, on top of everything else, I have to try to save the world.

Well, part of the world. My world. And, this time, there’s no safety net…

Catching Up Briefly

Raise your hand if you thought I had fallen off the face of the planet. I’m so sorry. I was trying not to blog too often, and I wound up blogging far too little. I’m back now! I hope all of you had wonderful holidays, and have great things in store for 2015. Here’s what my 2015 is looking like so far:

Next week- My second novel, The Prior, is being released!

Later this month- It’s my birthday, I’m doing author visits at a couple of schools, and I’ll be back in Texas to do book signings for The Prior.

Later this year- Honey and I will be celebrating fifteen years of marriage, one of our daughters will be going into her last year of middle school, we’ll become aunt and uncle to another niece, and other amazing milestone moments.

For now, though, I’m focusing on book-related items. Ahead of the release of my second novel, my first novel is being offered as a free download this weekend! TheProvider-FrontCover (1)If you have a Kindle, or at least the Kindle app, stop by and take a look!

Cover reveal for my second book comes tomorrow! 🙂

Family Friday: Pregnancy is weird, and it’s all about context

No, I’m not pregnant. Just wanted to throw that out right up front. 😉 But, there seem to be an awful lot of people in my life (and my Facebook feed) who are pregnant. It’s gotten me to thinking:

Pregnancy is all about context.

You can get away with so many things!! Yeah, being pregnant can be a lot of work, and some stress, and some exhaustion. But most people give you so much leeway when you’re pregnant!

If you break down crying for no apparent reason in the middle of laughing yourself silly, you’d better be pregnant. Say you’re pregnant and all is forgiven. Don’t have that to fall back on and people are going to look at you a little funny. And possibly start backing away slowly.

If you take multiple 2-hour long naps each day, you’d better be pregnant. Otherwise, somebody is going to call you lazy or suggest that you seek medical attention.

If you want to wake your spouse up at 3 o’clock in the morning to tell him you’re just DYING for some lobster (yeah, I did that), you’d better be pregnant. If you’re not, it’s probably not going to end well. As it was, I almost had the poor man in tears. I didn’t just want lobster, I was desperate for lobster. He was totally willing to get me some, but he had no clue where he could go at 3am to find lobster. (The irrational and completely craving-driven part of my brain almost suggested he hop a plane to Maine. I resisted.) Thankfully, for both of us, the craving had passed by the time I woke back up for the day.

If you want to put peanut butter on your steak, you’d better be pregnant. Or live alone. Your choice, really.

And, my personal favorite:

If you want to pee on a stick and then wave it in someone’s face, you had BETTER BE PREGNANT! I mean, really, why do we think this is a good idea? And, yeah, I totally did that. You pee on a stick, it comes up blue/plus sign/pregnant/baby booties/whatever, you start waving it in people’s faces. Ideally your spouse’s, but other people who happen to be in the vicinity may get the same treat. The weirdest thing? They’ll not only accept you waving this pee stick inches from their noses, they’ll CELEBRATE with you!!

Yeah, pregnancy is weird. And it’s all about context. 🙂

Muse Monday: Why do we use names?

For me, the hardest part of writing three novels was naming everybody. There were times that I felt like I’d used every name ever written and then some. I know I didn’t come anywhere close, but that’s what it felt like to me. Even though I know I did totally make up one name. Different blog post. Never mind.

Anyway, I started having conversations with people about character’s names. A remarkable number of people have told me that they read books without really paying attention to characters’ names. They’ll actually put a name with the character once the movies come out and they hear the names over and over again.

After I’d had some of these conversations, I had an interesting thing happen at a restaurant: My family went out for supper/dinner. (The last meal of the day, whatever you want to call it.) We were seated at our table, given our menus, and then the waiter walked up. “Good evening, folks. My name is Jeff, and I’ll be your server tonight.” I automatically looked at his name tag, because I was spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about the way names were spelled. His name tag said “Jessica.”

I’m pretty sure I cocked my head over to the side. “Well, that’s an interesting way to spell Jeff.” He looked down at it, looked back at me and grinned. “One of the waitresses and I are doing a social experiment. We switched name tags for the day, just to see how many people noticed.”

Of course, I had to ask him how many people had noticed.

We were the first table! He’d been at work for eight hours, on a weekend, and we were the first table who had noticed that his name tag said “Jessica.”

Why do we writers even bother naming our characters? I’m really tempted to write another novel that goes something like this:

“Hero went on a walk with secondary male lead, walking right past the house of throwaway female one that we’re going to mention once in a flashback and then she’ll never come up again.”

It might work. Then again, maybe not. I think it would be awfully fun to try, though!

Family Friday: I don’t care

My daughters are twelve and eight. The twelve year old is turning into quite the little lady, worried about fashion and hair and jewelry and whatnot. The eight year old…not so much.

She’s too busy being busy. She loves bright colors, ALL bright colors, and quite often tries to wear them all at the same time. It’s taking me a little while (read as “a few years”) to convince certain other people in my family that it’s okay for her to wear all of these colors at the same time. You want to wear orange socks in electric blue shoes with deep red shorts and a neon green shirt? Go for it! She’s fully dressed, in weather-appropriate clothing, and happy with how she looks. I’m fine with this. When it’s important to her, she’ll make sure she matches.

The only thing that she’s semi-obsessed with in terms of fashion is boots. She loves boots. Snow boots, heeled boots, suede boots, hiking boots, cowboy boots, tall boots. Boots, boots, boots!!

Unfortunately, that means that she just adds boots to whatever the outfit du jour is.

The first time that my husband came home and saw her wearing knee-high orange socks, neon green shorts, a deep yellow shirt, and black leather ankle boots, I think I saw a vein pop in his forehead. “Really? Boots? With SHORTS?” He was looking at me. I gave him my most charming (read “guilty”) smile. “She’s happy with it, and she didn’t have gym today.” He shook his head at me.

That incident was about six months ago. It has become an almost daily occurrence to see her in boots and shorts. He’ll raise an eyebrow at me. I’ll just smile and say “I don’t care. I’m okay with it.”

This past weekend, said daughter came flouncing down the stairs in black cowboy boots that have white stitching on them, sear-your-eyeballs-pink-neon socks that come up past her knees, purple biker shorts under a black velvet and lace skirt (even I was a little hesitant about that one), and a blue shirt (that I painted 7 years ago for our first daughter to wear) that looks like the Pac-Man screen. My husband blinked. Slowly. Three times. He cleared his throat. “Sweetheart, you don’t match. At all. Do you care?”

She smiled up at him. “Nope!”

He shrugged. “Then neither do I.” Turned around and walked outside with her.

I’m still celebrating.

None of us care. 🙂

Muse Monday: I think we all have ADD

I saw this picture come across my Facebook news feed recently:

 

adhd

 

It made me laugh. Been there, done that! Apparently, lots and lots of us have been there. When I tried to look up this picture, I came across dozens of versions of it. They call it ADD or ADHD, but writers have another term for it:

Stream of consciousness writing.

I have never tried to do SOC writing. I focus on the words that I’m typing specifically so that my brain doesn’t go off on fifty tangents. Apparently, some writers find SOC to be a very helpful tool. They’ll either use it to show one of their characters’ thought processes, or they’ll just type whatever comes to mind in order to find inspiration.

I tend to shy away from SOC writing, but I actually use the thought process quite a bit on my books. Or the reverse process. For example: I’ll be washing dishes (my favorite thinking time) and thinking about where my book is going to end. The next time I tune in to what I’m thinking about, it’s a road trip to California. I’ll stop myself and try to connect the dots backwards, getting back to what my original thought was. Somewhere in the middle, I usually find the missing piece of the chapter I’m working on.

It might be a little ADD-ish, but it works for me.

In other news…oh, look! A chicken! 😀