Monday, December 31, 2012

Old and New


Out with the old, in with the new.

I’m in a reflective mood today. I always get reflective on New Year’s Eve. When I was single, I would spend New Year’s Eve night reflecting on the past year, writing a poem or two about the year to come, finding a Bible verse to take with me into the New Year, and heralding the New Year in with a prayer. It was a sweet time of communion and reflection.

But now that I’m married with a kid, I’m lucky to make it to midnight. But I still like to remember the year past and anticipate the coming one. I strive to be aware of my life and the things God is doing with it. I long to have a healthy perspective on time and how I am spending it. I want to live my life on purpose with purpose.

I find I can do all this best through writing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Slackard!


Apologies! My writing has been put on the back burner as of late, due to all the holiday festivities. Even my blog has suffered. Needless to say, I had a wonderful Christmas, was blown away by the new musical movie Les Miserables, took a day to recover from all the fun, and got in some writing this afternoon.

I’ll get back on track Monday, I promise. Right now, honestly, I want to take advantage of the peace and quiet of bedtime and…

…browse Pinterest!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yawn...

 
Recoving from Christmas Blitz...
 
 
....Please stop by on Friday!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cheers!


Happy Christmas Eve!

I’m going to impart a Christmas wish upon you all, stolen from Michael W. Smith:

The happiest wishes are just old fashion wishes

May your days be merry

May your sorrows be few

May the ones you love be near you

That’s the happiest Christmas of all!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Does This Title Ring?


The Almost-True Adventures of Toby Turnkettle

This title has been rattling around in my head for the past couple weeks. I have a germ of an idea planting in my imagination. This is exciting, since I was afraid after finishing Sherlock Academy I wouldn’t have anything new to write.

But I have this idea for a new story. I’m thinking it’s going to be a quirky comedy about a kid who has been living alone while his poor parents sleep in comas in the hospital (a result of some absurd accident. I’ll need to make it ridiculous enough so it’s not too tragic). Toby has been living alone, but keeping up a false pretense that his parents are well and with him (think Home Alone when little Kevin tricked the thieves into thinking a huge party of people were hanging out at his house, etc.) Some strange adventure will find Toby, etc. I don’t really have much beyond that, but it’s a start.

I can breathe a little easier now knowing I won’t be at a complete loss after Book 5 is wrapped next year.

Let’s hope little West continues to take good naps next year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two Chances


Sometimes it’s hard coming to grips with the cruelty of this world.

I don’t even need to mention the latest incident of human devastation, as I’m sure you know exactly which recent tragedy is weighing on my heart as I write this. I can’t think too much about it without feeling a part of my heart crack, and the recess behind my eyes well up. This act of mass violence has sparked fresh debates over school safety and gun control.

But I’m not here to debate those things.

I’ve realized that while laws and procedures may help to prevent future tragedies, there is only one thing that can ultimately end sin: Jesus Christ.

God has given me two tools to use in spreading His love, grace, and truth. First, my writing. He has given me the gift of writing, and I can use that by writing characters who stand up for truth and make sacrifices for others. I can write stories that feature good overcoming evil. If there is any truth in the old saying ‘You Are What You Read’, then hopefully I can influence a young readership to make moral decisions and become heroes by loving others.

Second, I have my son. God has entrusted me with Westly, to raise him to fear the Lord, walk uprightly, live justly, and love truth. Hopefully I can instill in Westly a love for God and others, and a passion to live by God’s Word, so he in turn can make a difference in this world.

Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. Don’t we all?

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm One of Those


I love Christmastime. I really do. And I think I love it even more now that I’m a mom. I use to watch parents spoil their kids with presents, relish their kids opening each one, and be genuinely more excited about giving than receiving. And I didn’t get it.

Now I do. Michael and I agreed that Westly doesn’t need a lot of presents, he’s still young, and wouldn’t care whether he got gifts or not. But we couldn’t help getting excited about getting him presents and watching him enjoy the holiday season. I’m totally one of those now.

So the next thing we need to do is go to Disneyland. I can’t wait to take Westly and enjoy the Magical Kingdom by watching him enjoy it. I remember telling Michael one time while he and I walked through Fantasyland, “I’ll know we’re ready for kids when all I want to do is enjoy Disneyland with them.”

That’s where we are now with our little Doodle. It’s true “How wonderful life is now that you’re in the world!”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Breaking Down That Wall


Guess what!

I started to have a breakthrough with my writer’s block. Remember last week (I think it was?) I complained about being stuck in writing Book 5. I have six chapters written. That’s it. But over the last few days, the creative juices started flowing and dissolving that block.

I have some ideas!

Now I just need to sit down and start writing again. Maybe right now—

Is that a cry I hear? Is that coming from the baby monitor?

Sigh…never mind. Tomorrow is another day, and another naptime.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mary Had It Right


The other day while driving around doing errands, I was listening to the Mix radio station in the car—they play continuous Christmas music till December 26. That song ‘Mary Did You Know?’ came on. I have to be honest, it’s not my favorite Christmas song, mainly because I feel like female vocalists use it as an excuse to sing like a diva. Anyways, it has some powerful lyrics. And it got me thinking.

It seems these days parenting and the politics that go along with parenting have become so complicated. There are so many theories, approaches, and decisions to make. Everything from whether to vaccinate or not, to the debate over spanking. Then there’s the added confusion of which products to use: which car seat is safest, which pacifier is better for your baby’s mouth, disposable or cloth diapers?

It’s complicated.

When I feel overwhelmed by so many opinions and so much materialism in regards to raising a kid, I think of Mary.

Yes, Mary the mother of our Savior Jesus Christ. She married a poor carpenter, lived in a small town, was a young mom, and didn’t even have a crib for her baby when He was born. Yet she successfully raised her baby to be healthy and happy.

She did a pretty good job raising the Son of God, no less! And she didn’t have a Babies R Us or a go-to parenting blog.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Lois Lane


Last month I did an interview with the Sun newspaper (see Friday’s post). I answered a reporter’s questions, and read his article in newsprint.

Interesting twist:

Now I may be living on the other side. I may join the writing staff of another local newspaper, the Orcutt Pioneer.  Michael knows the owner of the newspaper because her kid goes to Michael’s charter school and had my Mr. Shaw as an English teacher. She was telling my husband how she is short on writers, and if he knew anyone who would be interested.

Michael jumped right in with “We’ll do it!”

We’ll become a little husband-wife newspaper writing team! I don’t have all the details yet, but I know the newspaper comes out once a month, and features local news in the small community of Orcutt. (I’ve been featured in it several times before my book release events) And we get paid per article we write, which will be some wonderful extra income.

I have to admit, this is a little writing dream come true!

(And a great excuse for my writer’s block on Book 5)

Friday, December 7, 2012

To Quote FC Shaw...


Last week my interview with the local Santa Maria Sun newspaper came out! A week before my book release, I did a phone interview with them. It was a good 45 minute interview with some great questions. Then the reporter came to the book event and took some pictures. The article turned out great, a nice page spread! There’s a picture of me signing a book, and a shot of my books for sale. It’s always surreal to not only see your picture in the paper, but to read the things you said, and the reporter’s summary of you and your craft. (I had a similar article in the Sun a few years ago, and an article in another local paper last year).

I haven’t done a ton of interviews, but I have done enough to know what reporters find interesting, and what they tend to quote in their articles. I usually get a lot of the same questions both from reporters and from kids at author visits, so I’ve had practice with my answers. And let me just say, I have a lot more respect for celebrities who get interviewed all the time. It really takes practice to answer concisely, to be specific, interesting, and original.

It’s a lot like writing a story. Every word counts.

And sometimes you don’t realize how stupid you are till you see your words in print.

Thank goodness I have a chance to revise/edit my writing before everyone reads it. Sometimes I wish I could do the same with an interview. For now, I’ll keep practicing. Overall, I was happy with this interview.

Check out the article at http://www.santamariasun.com/art/9070/another-piece-of-the-puzzle/

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Way to Spend Four Hours


West and I just got back from visiting my family down south—a Thanksgiving make-up. West bonded with his Pops, played with his cousin Mina, opened early Christmas gifts from his Auntie Lis (my good friend), and got re-acquainted with his great-grandma Mimi.

In the past I relished the four hour car drive to and from my parents. It was a time for me to worship the Lord to some Chris Tomlin and David Crowder. It was a time for me to stretch my vocal chords to Taylor Swift and Adele. And most importantly, it was a time for me to get lost in my imagination as I brainstormed ideas for my writing, and Sherlock Academy.

That was all before my little doodle came along.

Now I spend the four hour car ride passing the Elmo toy and the tractor book back to Westly. I point out the big semi trucks and wave like an idiot at them as we pass by. I try to explain to this 19 month old boy that we’re going to Pops and Grammy’s house, and we’ll be there soon. I brainstorm ideas of how to keep Westly entertained, and try to ward off a complete meltdown.

There are stretches of the journey when Westly quietly zones out with his paci—ten or fifteen minutes here and there. During those few miles I try to switch from Mommy-mode to Writer-mode, and plot out a few moments for my Book 5. But it’s really hard.

I barely start a dialogue in my head between Rollie and his friend Cecily, when another voice cuts in…

“Mama! Wa-wa!”

I pass the sippy cup to the back seat.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Waiting for Lightning


I have six chapters of Book 5 written. A few weeks ago I suddenly got inspired to start writing the last book in my series. I knew how it would begin.

Now I’m stuck.

I know what needs to happen in this book, I know how it needs to end, and how to tie up the series. I’m just not sure how to get there.

I’m waiting for that lightning bolt of an idea to strike. I’m waiting for that Ah-Ha!-Moment. I’m waiting for God’s divine intervention.

I know it will come.

It better. Writer’s block is the worse.

Well, that and your kid getting Roseola. I’ve got both right now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Too Much November


Is it just me, or is it strange this year to have a whole week of November left after Thanksgiving? Usually we start December sometime during that week following Turkey day. This year is different, and it’s kind of odd to me.

Mainly because once Thanksgiving is over, I can’t help but want to embrace the Christmas season. And starting December justifies my eager fa-fa-la mood somehow!

No matter, the Shaw Manor is already bedecked for the holidays. Our tradition is that Thanksgiving weekend we decorate for Christmas. The years when we’re gone with the Drazins, we either decorate the day we get home, or the day before we leave, which is usually the day before Thanksgiving. That’s what we did this year. It was magical to come home to Christmas.

Still it’s not December yet. I’m thinking I’ll at least restrain myself from buying Christmas gifts until December 1.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Take-Out Turkey

I had a big mommy decision to make this Thanksgiving. If you've been reading my blog, you know it was my family's year to host Thankgiving and we were planning to go down for the weekend and celebrate with them.

Things didn't turn out quite that way. West ended up getting really sick. He had a high fever for almost 48 hours, and wasn't doing well. So Wednesday night I called my mom and had to tell her we were staying home. In that moment, I really felt like a parent. I was canceling plans because my kid got sick.

Of course it was very disappointing for everyone. But it was the best thing to do for our little boy. So our holiday turned out to be the strangest of all. Michael's side of the family wasn't getting together because all his siblings were with inlaws this year (we're all on the same rotating holiday schedule with our families). And we couldn't invite ourselves over to anyone's house because Westly was sick. A dear friend brought us Thanksgiving dinner, so we got out turkey, etc. But it was still a little sad to think about everyone meeting with family and sitting at a huge table to partake in the meal together....

...and there we were....West napping, Michael and I watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Oh well. Just another circumstance to remind me I am a Mom. And I'm thankful for that above all else.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Dose of Deuteronomy


I thought I would share my Bible verse I chose for reflection time this year. I also wrote a little poem to go along with it.

“…therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may  love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…” Deuteronomy 30:20

You set the beat in my heart,

A heart built to love You.

You blew the breath in my lungs,

Lungs filled to praise You.

You drew the prints on my hands,

Hands formed to cling to You.

You wrote the prose of my days,

Days meant to be with You.

You are my life!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who's Year Is It Anyway?


This year it’s my family’s turn to have us for Thanksgiving. Being that my family lives 4 hours away, we swap the holidays with the Shaws and Drazins every year. This year is Drazin Thanksgiving and Shaw Christmas, and next year will be the other way around. I always look forward to Drazin Thanksgiving for a few reasons:

1.      Great homemade meal—whether it’s my mom or my Mimi cooking the meal, it’s always a yummy spread made from scratch. No boxed Stove Top stuffing on this table!

2.      Time of reflection—my dad always leads the family in a time of reflection on God’s blessings. We each take a turn sharing a Bible verse that was key to us this year, and saying what we are most thankful for.

3.      All my siblings in one place—it’s hard to get all my siblings together at once, especially since three of them are brothers with more exciting things to do. But for the holiday they all come, and I get extra time with my sweet sister-in-law. West and his cousin Mina will get to spend time together. Sadly this year my sister will not be with us, as she is in Belize and is saving her plane ticket money for a Christmas visit.

I hope your Thanksgiving is marked by good food, good conversations, and the goodness of God.

Blessings!

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Budding Author

The Book Release for Book 4 this weekend was a fun success, especially since my little Westly was a part of it. You never know, someday he may be signing books for a living!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Mama's Books


The other evening Westly was playing with a bookshelf in our family room. He rarely messes with things around the house that are not for him. But sometimes when he’s bored he gets mischievous. I keep my Sherlock Academy books, and copies of a devotion I wrote/published (more on that later) on this book shelf. When West picked up my books, I said, “Those are Mama’s books. I wrote those.”

Then later that evening I was in the dining room organizing the big shipment of books for the book release tomorrow. West recognized my books I was sorting through. He scuttled out of the dining room and was gone for a few minutes. He came scampering back holding a Sherlock Academy book and a Tokens of Grace book (my devotion). He held them up to me and said, “Mama.”

My first thought was, “Wow, he’s a little smartie-pants! And he has a killer memory.” Next my heart welled with love and pride for him. It made me feel so special to see my son holding my work, and affirming that these books were “Mama.”

He’s right. Every word in those books are a little part of me. And I can’t wait to share that part of ‘Mama’ with him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Releasing Book 4


I’m very excited. This coming Saturday is the book release of The Baker Street Underground, my fourth book! I’m very proud and excited about this one.

I’m proud of it because I was able to complete it in a timely manner while still being a dedicated mother and wife. Thanks to God, Westly’s long naps have given me time to write. Even amidst sleep deprivation (remember, West was up every 3-4 hours each night until he was almost a year old), God gave me the focus, creativity, and energy to write.

I’m really excited about this one because I took some big creative risks as a writer. I went out of my comfort zone a bit, explored some new ideas, and made some daring movies with my characters and plot. But I think Book 4 is better for it, and I grew so much as a writer.

I can’t wait to share my story with the world. If you’re a local Central Coaster, come out and be a part of this exciting chapter in my life! (If you’re an out-of-towner but still want Sherlock Academy books, contact me or order them online at my website)

When: Sat. Nov. 17 10:30am-12:30pm

Where: Toy Zoo next to Michael’s Craft Store in Santa Maria, CA.

What: FREE kids activities/games (scavenger hunt, codes, character profiling), free raffle tickets for free books when you purchase a Sherlock Academy book, free Sherlock Academy notepads to the first 50 customers, personal author autograph on purchased books.

Cost: Books 1 and 2 $12 each, Books 3 and 4 $13 each. Book Set of Books 1-4 $50. Cash or checks.

Come celebrate Sherlock Academy, and do a little Christmas shopping while you’re at it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Lil Bro


I’m going to take this moment to promote another blog. It belongs to my youngest brother Andrew (who is 19 years old and stands over 6 feet tall, but is still the baby of the family).

He is an extremely talented artist who has his own style and edge. I’ve been encouraging him to pursue an artistic career in some capacity. I told him to start a blog to get his work out there, and amazingly, he listened to me! Check it out and pass it on. (Get past the first piece of art, the others are pretty cool!)


Disclaimer: I have to apologize ahead of time for the language/content he sometimes uses that is not Christian, to say the least.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Scribble Scribble


Someone asked me, “Did you write this week?”

Hmm…depends on what you mean by ‘write’. Sure.

I wrote a three-page letter to my sister in Belize (have I mentioned my one and only sis is living/serving the Lord in the jungles of Belize? Very cool, but I do miss her terribly).

I wrote out a three-column grocery list and accompanying menu for the week.

I wrote catchy taglines on the backs of the pictures of Westly I mailed to family.

I wrote some romantic pose to my husband and stuck it in his lunch box to find at work.

I wrote a few jaunty status updates on my Facebook.

So yeah, I wrote a lot this week actually.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Still Have a Vote


As a mom, it’s hard to find time to keep up on current events, mainly politics. I’m lucky to get a report on tomorrow’s weather before Westly turns the TV off or accidentally changes the channel. It’s easy to dismiss politics in the name of motherhood. I mean, on a daily basis I’m bombarded with decisions to make: cereal or waffle for Westly’s breakfast, run errands before or after his nap, let him sleep in and enjoy some extra snooze time or wake him and enjoy an earlier bedtime later that day, flick his hand for throwing food on the floor or just act like I didn’t see him do it. Lots of decisions.

Which leaves me hardly any energy to make bigger decisions like Romney or Obama, Lois Capps or Abel Maldanado, YES or NO on that Prop.

However, this year I was determined to stay informed and educated on politics and cast my vote in the election. (after all, these big elections come only as often as Leap Year!) I was not going to become a housewife/mother who would tell her children later, “I didn’t keep up on politics—I was too busy raising kids!”

I kept Westly in his highchair during the Presidential debates on TV. I kick-started some political conversations with friends during play dates. I listened to some AM radio while driving to the gym. And yesterday, I went to the polls.

While balancing Westly on my hip, I quickly filled in my ballot as fast as I could before he got antsy. I proudly wore my ‘I Voted’ sticker and protected it from Westly’s reach.

And I realized one thing has not changed despite becoming a mom: I still felt that warmth of patriotism I have felt every time I casted my vote in the past since I was 18.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Trusting My Gut


I wrote Chapter 1 of Book 5.

And I am astounded to say I think it’s a keeper! That’s usually not the case when I start a new book. Usually I end up rewriting Chapter 1 a few times. With Book 3, I have three different versions of Chapter 1. It’s sometimes tricky to decide how to start a book, for Chapter 1 sets the tone of the whole book. It also has to catch the reader’s interest immediately, give the reader a sense of the plot and conflict, and introduce key characters. Like I said, tricky.

I felt in my gut how I should start Book 5, and I listened to my gut. It’s quite an intense beginning, a little dark, and offers a surprising twist right away. Risky. But I felt it was the right way to start it. I read the draft to Michael and he affirmed what I was thinking.
I have a good feeling about this one...

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Little Secret


A couple friends and family members have commented lately on how much I tend to get done in my days. I write books, teach art, try new recipes, make crafts, etc. I just want to go on record as saying, No I am not one of those super-women who rise at dawn, run a business on their blog, cultivate their own ingredients, and homeschool their children. You know the type! More power to those Proverbs 31 Women!

I will tell you the secret to my productivity: I have one kid who naps 2-3 hours every day!

When Westly naps, I have free time. And since I don’t have any other children, I am completely free to work. Most of my friends have more than one kid. Even if their little one takes a good daily nap, they still have the older one(s) to tend to. They don’t get a big chunk of time each day all to themselves to get things done and indulge in their hobbies.

I realize I am in a nice phase of life right now. I have only one kid, and right now he takes a long nap every day. And I know this will not last forever. Someday we’ll have another child, and sadly someday Westly will take shorter naps or give them up altogether. I’ve been feeling the pressure to make sure I am maximizing my free time to the fullest.

Honestly, I don’t know what I’ll do when I have another baby. Which is yet another reason I’m in no hurry to expand our family!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Joining the Web


So it finally happened: the Shaws are online! We found an internet provider with a reasonable price for us. As of this morning, the internet is at my fingertips—and I’m not at Starbucks, but in my kitchen!

I was afraid having the internet at home would be a time suck and keep me from Westly. Quite the contrary actually. Now during his afternoon naps, I can blog, check my mail, and look up that recipe on Pinterest—all things I used to do on the weekends at Starbucks while Michael watched West. Because I can take care of business during the week, I have more weekend time with my boys.

Well, that’s the plan anyway. I’m pretty disciplined with myself about not having the TV on while Westly is up—my own personal convictions. And I plan to keep the same rule with the internet. His afternoon naps are my TV/internet/writing/me time.

Now excuse me, I need to Google an art lesson.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Secret of the Month


I think Starbucks needs to release a ‘Secret of the Month’. I feel I am constantly uncovering new secrets they offer, etc. Two of my besties (shout out to Morgan and Becky!) are always in the Starbucks know and are always educating me on Starbucks secrets. Here are a few they’ve shared that I’ll disclose to any other Starbuckians out there:

Venti is not the largest size! There is a trenta size (picture coffee Big Gulp) It is available upon request!

Some Bucks stores offer free coffee refills if you bring in your cup and receipt! (not on special drinks, just plain coffee, but ice coffee—my usual bev—counts!)

There are ways around the higher prices! You just have to be creative. For example, my besties love iced white mochas, but they’re $3-4 a pop. Instead they order an ice coffee ($2-3) and add cream and pumps of white mocha syrup, which basically tastes the same at half the price!

These are just a few of the Starbucks secrets I’ve learned. You’re welcome!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Singe Mom Blues


This weekend I’m a single mom. Michael is teaching. A few times a year he teaches a special weekend class at the local junior college. It’s great extra money (especially needed for Christmas). But I hate being a single mom on the weekends. Last year was really rough because West was only six months old and very needy. I felt very alone with a baby. But this year will be better. Since West is older, he’s become my little companion. And he takes a 3 hour nap each day, which will give me a break.

Still I look forward to the weekend to hang out with my hubby and have a little Westly break. I can’t imagine being a full-time single mom. My heart goes out to all of them in the world.

One mom in my women’s Bible study has been without her husband since July (he’s in Afghanistan). I can’t even imagine! I was convicted that instead of being mopey that my husband has to work a few weekends, I should extend my friendship to other moms who are alone. So maybe I’ll make a new friend this weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When I Was in College....


So I decided to submit something different to our Writer’s Caravan for critique. I wrote a short story for a magazine years ago that was based on one of my mission trips to Albania in my early college years (that makes me sound so old!) I meant to send it out to some magazines…..and well, just never did (a typical writer’s story). Since I’m taking a little breather from Sherlock Academy this month, I’ve decided to work on some little projects, like submit some short stories. So I gave my story and its query letter to my fellow writers to critique. And I’m hoping to then submit it to some magazines. We’ll see…

Monday, October 22, 2012

I Smell A Story


Miranda Turnkettle was an orphan. But not the usual kind of orphan. You see, her parents did not die, they simply stopped living life, which is an entirely different thing altogether. Miranda found it easier to say she was an orphan than to explain what really happened to her parents.

Remember this opening I came up with a few months ago? It popped in my head one day as West and I walked to the park. I’m thinking there’s a story somewhere in there. I’ve decided to write that story and submit it to our Writer’s Caravan. I have no idea where it will go, or what will become of it. But it’s an entirely new story, and entirely new creation, and I’m not going to be intimidated by it. I’m going to be brave and start from scratch again.

So here we go…

Friday, October 19, 2012

Starting from Scratch


This coming Monday I have to submit something to our Writer’s Caravan group for critique. Every month we take turns featuring different members, and this month is my turn. I can submit anything I like to them, and we’ll discuss their feedback at our next meeting. I have no idea what to submit! I’m finished with Book 4, and haven’t started much of Book 5. I have some other projects brewing in my head, but haven’t sat down to formulate them yet. I need to think about what I want to pursue in my writing and what I’d like feedback on. I’ve been so wrapped up in Sherlock Academy for so many years. It’s strange and a little scary to think of writing something new. And not just writing something new, but creating something new completely from scratch. Even when I start to write a new Academy book, I’m not completely creating everything from scratch. I have a whole world with settings and character and backstory to work with.

Gulp

It’s definitely time for me to grow and stretch as a writer, which means starting over completely from scratch.

I feel the same way when I think of having another baby someday. I finally got a handle on Westly. I know him pretty well, we have a routine, I’ve worked out some kinks in parenting. Having a new baby means starting all over again. And that’s a scary thought as well.

Sigh

I’ll take one new thing at a time, starting with my writing. A new baby will have to come later.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Who's Writing This?


Sometimes I feel like my own characters, who will be walking through life when all of a sudden I drop them into a situation and dump everything on them all at once. Most of the time I have no pity for them, and actually find a twisted sort of pleasure in watching them tread water to keep their heads above the surface of all the chaos. I add pressure on my poor Rollie to solve the case.  I know he’s the type of character who struggles with the insecurities of letting his loved ones down, of not being good enough, of failing. So what do I do? I up the stakes and add the pressure of his insecurities.

Sometimes I can relate to my characters. There are days when I struggle with my own insecurities of being a mom and wife and friend. I feel like someone ups the stakes. While I know the ending of Rollie’s story—I know he’ll make it through his insecurities and solve the case, for the most part—I don’t know the ending to my story. I don’t know if Westly will learn to be verbal on time. I don’t know if I’ll triumph over my temper. But then not knowing makes the story more suspenseful and interesting, I suppose.

I can count on one thing though: the Author of my story is really, really, really good at what He does.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scratch, Scratch


I’m getting the itch again. That itch to write. That tingle of excitement to create a new story. That yearning to get lost in my little world of Sherlock Academy and hang out with my characters. I’m getting thrilled by the idea of plotting. I’m ready for a new challenge.

The past six months I’ve been editing and revising Book 4, which is part of the writing process, but it doesn’t always entail writing necessarily. So now with Book 4 wrapped, I’m getting excited to go back to pure writing and creating and start on Book 5. I can always tell I’m antsy to write when ideas keep me awake at night!

I hate losing sleep generally, especially when it’s because my little boy keeps me awake at night. But every so often, I don’t mind wandering into fantasy and being kept awake by conversations between my characters, or scenes of story. I can hear their voices bantering, and see scenes play out in my head. No, I’m not crazy, I’m a writer.

It’s delicious!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Get That Booty Movin'!


I Zumba. It’s true. I’ve joined the fitness fad. For clarification, Zumba is both a noun and a verb. Noun: a latin-inspired dance style tailored with aerobics and hip-hop for a fun fitness routine. Verb: the act of participating in the dance called Zumba.

I love it. It’s a great workout. By the end of an hour, I’m sweating, out of breath, and have burned around 800 calories. And I don’t even notice because I’m having so much fun! It’s been a great outlet for me to shed some leftover pesky baby-pounds, and for me to get out of the house by myself. It’s also a taxing physical and mental workout.

Working out has always brought a little balance to my life. I’ve never been a huge physical-fitness fiend, but I’ve always been a member of a gym where I would take at least two fitness classes a week to stay in shape and healthy. However, after becoming a mom, I had no motivation to workout. Of all the things I have to do as a mom, the last thing I wanted to do was work out during the little free time I got.
Until I discovered Zumba. Like I said, it doesn’t feel like working out. It’s a fun dance party! So this past summer I joined a gym and try to go Zumba a few times a week. And I feel I’m a better wife and mom because of it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Maxwell Smart, Here, Agent 86


“Missed it by that much!”

“Would  you believe…”

“Just what are you getting at, Chief?”

These are some of the reoccurring lines from a great TV show from the 60s: Get Smart. I know a few years ago they made a movie based off of the show starring Steve Carrel and Anne Hathaway—it was pretty funny. But nothing tops the original TV show. I grew up watching reruns of it that my mom taped off TV. A few years ago they released Get Smart on DVD. Right now I have seasons 1-3.

During Westly’s naps I put Get Smart on in the background while I clean, or edit my writing, or work on a monthly craft project. It’s been great fun. Some people don’t care for the show, like  my husband. He really doesn’t get it. If you’d like to know whether you’d like it or not, you should know the show is written and directed by Mel Brooks.

So you can expect the shows to be quirky, ridiculous, witty, and brilliant…in a Mel Brooks way. It’s pure comedic genius. And there are some great spy ideas that I’ve often considered stealing for my mystery series.

The show is a great nostalgic escape. The characters wear classy 60s fashions. The sets are colored and lighted in a great style. Control always triumphs over Chaos. Agent 86 (Smart) and his girl partner Agent 99 have great chemistry. And there’s something comforting about hearing the routine lines spoken, the same props used, and Maxwell Smart always saving the day.

Shoes phones, the Cone of Silence, Max’s booby-trap-rigged apartment, Hymie the robot…

… I love getting lost in the world of Get Smart!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Let's Get Connected


Michael and I have been talking about making a big change in our life. A change that will make life a little more convenient, but will also be a constant challenge to our self-control. A change that will be an added expense, but will hopefully pay off. A change that may keep us up late at night.

 

We’re thinking about finally getting the internet at our house.

That’s right, we have no internet service at home. We defy the American norm. We haven’t been sure we could afford it. It was one of those luxuries we decided to do without to keep to our tight budget. But now we think we can swing it.

And it’s becoming increasingly more inconvenient to not have it. Right now I go once a week to Starbucks (during one of Westly’s naps on the weekend while Michael stays home) to blog, check email, browse Pinterest, etc. I look forward to it partly to have some time alone out, partly to have my Starbucks treat, and partly to catch up online. While these little dates with myself are nice, I’m finding going online once a week isn’t cutting it.

I’m missing deadlines on coupons sent to my email, missing facebook invites from my friends, forgetting to check different things, and responding way late to editors and publishers. I am also toying with the idea of doing some Etsy business to bring in some extra income. But I would definitely need to be online at least once a day for that.

And let’s face it: it would be nice to have the option to veg online after West goes to sleep.

In danger of being way cheesy, I have to quote Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Same with the internet. We’ll have to exercise some self-control to be sure we’re not ignoring West, ignoring each other, etc. But then I figure we’ll replace one time-suck for another: instead of watching 3 episodes of Gilmore Girls at night, we’ll surf the web.

 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spooky Traditions


It’s that bewitching time of year again! October makes me want to watch Harry Potter, read old fairy tales, and write something whimsical…maybe involving friendly ghosts, or bubbling potions, or a magic pumpkin.

This week we added our Halloween decorations to our autumn ones bedecking the Manor. We also brought out our Halloween-themed-inspired movie collection:

The Addams Family 1 and 2

Hocus Pocus

The Worst Witch

CLUE

The Witches

Ever After

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

We’re all about traditions and themes in the Shaw family. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Tale of the Lost Fox

I don’t usually post pictures on this blog, but I have to share this incredible story that happened to me. And a picture is a must. Here you see a picture of my fox coin purse that my mom bought for me the last time she came visiting. It’s become one of my favorite little things. I keep hair accessories in it—bobby pins, hair clips—for my purse.

Last week, it disappeared. I thought maybe I had left it at my friend Becky’s house, but she couldn’t find it. I was so bummed. I checked two Targets (ours and my mom’s down south), but they didn’t have any more. I figured my little West was to blame. The other evening we went to Target and I met up with Becky who was shopping. She rummaged through her cart and whipped out a fox coin purse. It was on clearance and she said she would buy it for me because I had been so sad about losing mine. She said it was the last one. I thought, what luck! I was so excited as she gave it to the cashier to ring up.

  “I’m sorry, we can’t sell you this,” the cashier said, “It’s been recalled. See the tag?”

Becky and I were dumbfounded. Why on earth was it recalled? The cashier wasn’t sure—she guessed maybe there was some issue with the fabric or something. Bottom line, she couldn’t legally sell it because it had a recall tag on it. I was so upset. I explained how sad I had been to lose mine, how lucky it was to find one coin purse left, how I had checked other Targets, and how this was so stupid they wouldn’t sell it to me.

Partly joking I said, “Maybe I’ll just steal this one!” I picked up the coin purse to take one last longing look at it.

And my detective observation skills kicked in. I noticed that this fox coin purse had a similar, if not exact same, scratch on the back and a nick on the front as the one I had lost. I opened it, and was shocked to find…

…bobby pins inside! And all the pieces of this mystery fell into place. THIS was MY fox coin purse I had lost!

 I had been to Target earlier on the day it disappeared. I deduced that Westly must have tossed it over the side of the cart without me knowing. Then some Target employee must have found it, tagged it, and tried to re-sell it with a clearance price. But perhaps because of the scratches or strange way in which it was found, Target decided to just put a recall tag on it and not deal with it anymore.

I started jumping up and down and exclaiming, “This is my fox coin purse I lost! Look, these are my bobby pins. Can I have it back?”

The cashier went to ask her manager. And I’m guessing she and the manager both agreed it would be less hassle to just let the crazy, squealing woman have her coin purse back. So now I have Foxy back in my purse, holding my hair accessories. And I’ve got one of those crazy ‘I’m sure! kinda stories to tell.

 I mean, what are the odds that not only is my lost coin purse found, but it’s found by my friend, the same friend who knew I had lost it. And what are the odds I was there when Becky tried to buy it, and I discovered it was mine all along?

Sounds like a ridiculous work of fiction.

Hey, some things you can’t make up.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Baker Street Underground


I have to do a pitch for Sherlock Academy Book 4: The Baker Street Underground

It is scheduled to be released Saturday, November 17!

If you are a Central Coaster, then come to Toy Zoo in Santa Maria on Sat. Nov. 17 from 10-12pm to pick up your own signed copy of The Baker Street Underground. All ages welcome to come and participate in activities, games, and raffles. First 50 kids get a free give-away!

For more info go to www.sherlockacademy.com and be sure to follow the link to the blog!

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Few Things to Remember


Alrighty, I did it…I finished Book 4. I finalized the cover with my graphic designer just last week and ordered a first copy. Last step will be to read through it one last time to check for typos, formatting issues, etc. Then I’ll order a bulk shipment and share them with the world!

 

Sometimes when I’m in the midst of writing and editing and promoting my books, I forget a few things:

1.      How I am living my dream as a children’s book author

2.      How incredibly proud I should be for finishing yet another book, in spite of being a full-time mother

3.      How ridiculously blessed I am that God decided to give me the writing bug and do something fun with it

 

And sometimes when I’m in the midst of cleaning, changing diapers, pushing West on the swings, and making dinner, I forget a few more things:

1.      How I am living another dream of being a stay-at-home mom

2.      How incredibly proud I am of my hard-working husband who never makes me feel guilty for staying home and thinks it’s best for our family

3.      How ridiculously blessed I am that God gave me this sweet little boy who delights me more each day and reflects God’s goodness every time he smiles and says “Mama”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Couldn't I Be from Texas?

I got an email the other day that bummed me out a little: a rejection to Sherlock Academy. This one in particular was a little disappointing because they've been reading and considering my Book 1 since the beginning of summer. I submitted it to them, they read the first 50 pages, and requested more. They liked my writing style, etc. But in the end, they said they are a small house that at the moment is only publishing Texan authors and/or stories based in Texas.

I wanted to ask them, "Then why did you bother to read my story at all? Thanks for wasting my time!"

Instead, I emailed back a polite thank-you for reading my story, etc. I also mentioned I am brewing a new story in my head and would they be interested in reading a book proposal on it? It could be based in Texas. I have a small plot in mind with a working title:

The Tree House Wars

I'll let you know when I have more to say on this story....

....or when the Bright Sky Publishing has more to say on it....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ring In the Season


Now that it’s officially autumn, the Shaws have made some changes, as they always do this time of year. We busted out the fall decorations and decked our halls with autumn garlands, wreathes, and pumpkin-scented accents. (Halloween decorations will join on October 1, per tradition).

I also exchanged my summery wardrobe for my autumn one of sweaters, skirts, and tops all in fall hues of orange, mustard-yellow, brown, and rust. I always swap my wardrobe per season to be more festive and keep my wardrobe fresh and exciting, at least for myself.

A few new flavors are on our menu this time of year. I always make this delicious apple bread, and pumpkin-spice cookies. I also try to cook more homey stews, roasted meat and veggies, and corn bread.

As you can tell, the Shaws are all about embracing the season!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A New Verdict


I got some very encouraging news the other day in regards to my high cholesterol. My mum-in-law (she’s British, you know) called me and said she had read an article online about cholesterol levels in nursing moms. An average level for a pregnant or nursing mom is 200-350!

I’m 320, and yes, I’m still breastfeeding Westly a little.

This made my day! My doctor probably didn’t think to ask me if I’m still breastfeeding. While I know high cholesterol runs in my family and I still may be in danger of it being high in me, I felt better knowing that my extremely high level is probably related to my nursing.

Whew! I’m not as bummed about this whole thing anymore. I’m still going to eat oatmeal for breakfast (I got some yummy brown sugar oatmeal at Trader Joes), and limit my dairy intake. I don’t have to drink that glass of milk at night, or snack on cheese a few times a day, or order my Starbucks with whole milk. But I’m not going to stress about my diet as much.

It’s nice to have one limitation somewhat lifted from my life!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Report Is In


I got the verdict on my blood work taken last week. My cholesterol is very high! An average healthy range is 130-200. Mine came back at 320. I am told to go on a strict low-cholesterol diet for three months, then take more blood work and see how it’s doing.

I was not too shocked by the results for a few reasons: my mom and grandma both make bad cholesterol and have to watch it. My mom takes medicine for it. I could have inherited this. Also my diet tends to be the high-cholesterol type. For goodness’ sake, as the nurse was on the phone with me giving me the results, I was eating string cheese!

While we tend to eat fairly well at the Shaw Manor—low sodium, no soda, lean meats, no hygo-oils in snacks, etc.—I LOVE cheese! And all things creamy. Not to mention bacon, chocolate, eggs, etc. And let’s not forget my Starbucks fetish. Yes, those are all high-cholesterol.

A few days after this report, I got kinda down about it. I was most bummed about having to change my diet and watch what I eat. I didn’t want another limitation on my life. As a stay-at-home mom, I already have a lot of limitations on my life: living on a tight budget, having sleep interrupted, restrictions on free-time, etc. I want to be able to eat what I want and have that frapp or bit of chocolate if it makes me feel better.

Besides, I’m too young to be worrying about dieting this way! And I don’t care for oatmeal or Cheerios, which are the some of the best fighters against high cholesterol.

You can see why I am bummed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dance Party


Little Westly had been developing his dance moves recently. He pushes the button on his Mozart-playing turtle and proceeds to get his groove on. He just started twirling. He bounces and does squats. He reaches up on his tip-toes. And he runs around the room. I love it.

The funny thing is he is very serious about it. He enjoys it, but you get a sense from him that he takes his dancing very seriously. Which makes it all that much cuter.

I think he’s like his Mama. I enjoy writing immensely, but I also take it pretty seriously. Almost too much so maybe sometimes. When I am getting a little overwhelmed by my plot, or frustrated with landing a great title…

…I watch Westly dance and am reminded I need to do the same. And we have a dance party. Though instead of Mozart, I move better to Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's That Time of Year


It seems every year the holidays are promoted earlier and earlier. The other day I noticed Starbucks is advertising their fall bevs and snacks. Jamba Juice is decorated for Halloween already! And Target has their Thanksgiving stuff out.

Too soon! Let’s enjoy one season and holiday at a time. I’ve decided I won’t drink a pumpkin-spice-latte till the first day of fall. I won’t bust out our Halloween decorations until the first day of October. And I won’t give thanks until….Oops! Just kidding! I try to give thanks everyday…hee hee

Though someone should come up to me and say “Look who’s talking!” For my Book 4 is set around Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fainting and Plotting


I had to go in to get blood drawn. I was recommended to do so as a routine examination since the last time I had blood analyzed was when I was pregnant. At first I put it off. Then the last few weeks I’ve been feeling dizzy, tired, and having minor headaches. So I decided it was a good idea to draw blood and see what’s going on.

UGH

I have THE worst veins for drawing blood. I always have—except when I was pregnant. The increase blood supply did wonders for my veins and blood pressure. I always have to lie down, endure much prodding and poking, and hear over and over how small my veins are, etc. I usually do okay with it, for I really don’t have a phobia of needles or blood.

But if I let myself, I can psych myself out and start to feel faint. Of course going in on an empty stomach (because of fasting for it) never helps. This time I definitely was on the verge of fainting. I felt hot, cold, tingly, broke out into a cold sweat, and had to inhale deeply and get my mind on something else.

And I thought about my character Rollie in Book 4 I’m finishing up. There is a moment at the end when Rollie overhears some shocking information and reacts by feeling faint. I drew on my past experiences, but now I was able to double-check my writing as I lay there feeling on the verge of passing out!

The great literary experts always say “Write what you know!”

Well….

Monday, September 10, 2012

British At Heart


Westly is starting to say little words, or at least mimic the sounds of the words. My favorite thing he says is “Mama”. The way he says it just melts my heart every time! He says it in a slightly deeper tone. But when he says “Daddy”, he says it in a slightly higher tone. We found this quite amusing. Then we remembered something we observed in London years ago. British women tend to have deeper voices, while British men tend to have higher voices. We decided that Westly is British at heart since he says “Mama” low and “Daddy” high!

It got us excited to hopefully take him to England someday. Though our financial prospects are not looking favorable toward that! Maybe if I can land a great book deal someday and earn a little money off it, we can celebrate with a trip to ‘other homeland’.

And Westly will find he fits in perfectly!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Light at the End of the Tunnel


I sometimes get so tunnel-visioned about my writing. For instance, right now all I can think about is Sherlock Academy: finishing Book 4 and starting Book 5 to wrap up the series. I forget that I can also work on other little writing projects on the side in my extra time.

Wait a minute, extra time?! HA! Now that’s a funny thought.

But really, I have a ton of little kid stories that would fit well on a children’s magazine page. It doesn’t hurt to submit them and see what happens. What have  I got to lose? A little bit of my extra time? Pshaw!

Next month it’s my turn to submit something to our writer’s group for critique. I think I’m going to submit one or two of my little magazine articles/stories for critique and then submit them and see what happens.

It’s good for me to set smaller writing goals to keep myself from getting too tunnel-visioned about my writing. Still Sherlock Academy and its secret tunnels will be my chief focus for a while…

…Westly permitting, of course—he does take a lot of my focus!