Friday, August 31, 2012

What's In a Title?

10,000 Little Moments of Life

I heard this phrase the other day and both Michael and I looked at each other and asked, “Isn’t that a title of a book?” We shrugged. I replied, “If it isn’t, it should be.”

I’m not quite sure what sort of book this sounds like. It could go many ways. Here are some suggestions:

1.      10,000 Little Moments of Life. A Freshman girl embarks on the school year still bearing the scars of a bad summer romance. Will she ever find love again? Will she find the strength to forgive her estranged father? Will she get the lead role in the school’s Midsummer Night’s Dream?

2.      10,000 Little Moments of Life. A memoir about growing up in a fifth-wheel trailer and road-tripping through the USA. Clam digging in Washington, flooding in Nebraska, mountain lion-sighting in San Jose, thunderstorms in Montana…

3.      10,000 Little Moments of Life. Twelve year old orphan boy Tucker stumbles upon a tarnished old compass while digging for gold in the mines owned by the ruthless Lord Pimble. He soon discovers this is no ordinary compass—it’s a magic compass that grants him a wish every time he does a good deed for another. When Lord Pimble learns about the magic compass, Tucker is on the run for his life. Danger, adventure, wishes—all the great components of a fantastic tale—are packed in.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Like Mother Like Daughter

Last week my mom came to visit. My family lives about 4 hours away, so we take turns visiting each other. During the summer though, my mom prefers to come here since it’s about 20 degrees cooler. She’s able to leave the triple-digit temperatures and muggy August humidity and enjoy our 70-degree summer on the central coast. We always have a great time catching up. And she gets some good Grammy time with Westly. 

It’s interesting to see our relationship evolve as I’ve become a mom and she’s become a grandma. She makes more sense to me. I understand the choices she made as a mom. I see more of her in me. And the funny thing is, she’s reminding me of her mom—my grandma. Life is ironic in the way it comes around full circle in relationships.

And I’m reminded that a good story does the same thing. Good characters evolve, and good plots come around full circle. As they say, art imitates life. Or should at least.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Guilty Pleasure

You know you give way too much money to Starbucks when your free drink coupon comes in the mail almost as often as the mortgage does. I’ve been a gold card member for years now and one of the perks is a free drink earned after every 15 purchases. Usually I’d average a coupon every few months. Now I average one almost monthly. I hadn’t realized my Starbucks cravings had increased the last year and half until the coupons started coming. And I’ve figured it out.

Starbucks is my comfort food.

Everyone has something they crave or feel better eating when they need some comfort. When they’re stressed or down or lonely, etc. Now stop right there, I don’t feel any more stressed, down, lonely than the next stay-at-home mom or aspiring writer. Instead of chowing down a bag Cheetos, or munching on a candy bar, or downing a bottle of red wine…

…I sip my Starbucks.

After a restless night of Westly waking a few more times than necessary…

Or after a day of trying to appease the demands of a screaming, teething toddler…

Or after a long week of missing my husband who had extra meetings…

Or after feeling defeated as a writer because I didn’t meet my goal to revise that chapter…

I make a trip to the green mermaid. I inhale that warm pungent coffee aroma. I glance up at the menu full of delicious words like latte, Frappuccino, macchiato, and grande. I smile at the barista sporting a chic bob, green apron, and wide grin. I slip out my card glinting gold. I order, relishing every moment.

That first sip warms me—even if it’s a cold bev—and comforts me. While I know it doesn’t guarantee true fulfillment, it makes me feel better for that day. Westly’s poor sleep last night doesn’t seem as tiring. His screaming isn’t as loud. The week seems shorter. And I WILL revise that chapter.

Can I hear an Amen?

Friday, August 24, 2012

No News Is Bad News

I got another rejection letter in the mail, and this one was by far the most insulting. This letter—or rather the absence of a letter—was the lowest rejection I’ve gotten thus far. An empty envelope from a publisher came to me with a big postal stamp on it that read RECEIVED EMPTY OF CONTENTS. So either the publisher forgot to enclose a letter, or it fell out before reaching the post office, or they did not deem me worth their time and effort to enclose a proper rejection letter. They just sent the envelope.

Oh well, at least I can cross the publisher off my list and wait for the next one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure

I’ve spent some time brainstorming and outlining ideas for things to do with my little Westly. (See Monday’s blog). I think I have a pretty good list going. And I’m going to try my hardest to follow through. Although we’re already halfway into the second week of Michael being back at work and we haven’t gone anywhere. Still, I’ve at least got a plan….

The beach, park, Children’s museum, library, zoo, berry picking, weekly farmers markets, aquatic center, Chuck E. Cheese, mall, local toy zoo…

The game’s afoot!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Storyline for My Life

I always want to be a better mom. One area I want to be better in is doing more activities with Westly that allow him to develop, explore, and just have fun—he’s at the age for it now.  It just takes a little proactive planning and execution. Yet despite all my good intentions, I don’t always follow through. Before I know it, a whole day or week has gone by and I have nothing great to show for it. The only notable adventure we had was to Trader Joe’s.

But I think I’ve come up with a solution to help me. I need to plan my days like I plan my stories. When I’m writing, I brainstorm, jot down ideas, and plot out a general storyline. This works for me in my writing. So why wouldn’t it work for me in my daily life?

I’m going to sit down and brainstorm places to go and things to do. I’ll jot down a list of activities right for his age and the season. And I’ll plot out a daily and weekly outline for these adventures.

Stay tuned for my results.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Plots at Once

My last blog featured the unsolved Case of the Household Items. This little mystery has given me the opportunity to practice what I preach. After all, mysteries are my key genre I read and write.  I started asking myself what my main character from Sherlock Academy would do?

Which also got me thinking more about Book 5, my last book to wrap up my series. I haven’t written a single line yet, but I have been thinking a lot about it and have been jotting down notes. A few key points of Book 4 I am currently finishing will become important parts of Book 5, so I’ve really got to hash out my plots and make sure they’ll be congruent.

And while I’m working out these fictional mysteries, I’ve also got to figure out the non-fictitious mystery happening under my own roof. I think it’s time to go undercover and follow the key suspect—Westly Shaw—around.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Shaw Manor Mystery

There’s a real-life mystery going on at the Shaw Manor. We are racking up a list of missing items. A few I can think back to the last time I saw them, others I have only recently noticed missing when I went looking for them and have no idea when was the last time I saw them. Here are the facts of the case:

Missing Items

One waterproof sunhat belonging to a Mr. Westly Shaw. He was last seen wearing it at Avila Beach the first week of July.

One toy cell phone belonging to the same Mr. Westly Shaw, last seen in the living room at the beginning of July.

One Harry Potter sweatshirt belonging to a Mr. Michael Shaw. Last seen ???

One athletic jacket belonging to a Mrs. Farah Shaw. Last seen ???

One half-full bottle of Caesar salad dressing last seen in the hands of Mr. Westly Shaw.

Prime suspect: Mr. Westly Shaw

Hypothesis: Either Westly is throwing items in the trash, or is secretly hoarding them in some undisclosed location.

I plan to conduct a thorough search of the house and keep a tighter guard over the trash can.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sniff Sniff

It happened: summer vacation has come to a close. My husband is back to work. I shouldn’t complain since most wives don’t get their husbands home for two months. But still, it’s depressing.

Thank goodness I have my own little retreat…an outlet.

I’ll be doing a lot of writing now!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Little Money Saved

I love bargains. Who doesn’t? I’m not a super organized bargain shopper though. I don’t scout Craig’s List religiously, or jet to yard sales first thing Saturday morning, or collect coupons in a booklet. But I do try to save money where I can and take advantage of sales. And I’ve been pretty lucky recently:

Michael’s Craft Store: I bought Westly a ton of beach and water toys on clearance. Two buckets, two rakes, shovels, watering can, boat, sieve, and water wheel all for $3.50!

Yard Sale: I found a little tricycle with an attached pole for me to hold. It will be perfect for walking to the park and for West to learn on our new patio. $5!

Thrift Store: my sister-in-law works at Mission Thrift in San Luis Obispo (best store ever!) and she came across a toy shopping card, which is exactly what I’ve been wanting for West!

Of course all these things are for Westly, but that’s fine with me. Seems like every time he needs new toys, etc. God blesses us with little gems.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Revisions: The Story of My Life

My life is all about revisions right now. First, we revised our backyard. We decided to invest in it for Westly’s sake. We extended our fence to add 9 extra feet of room, and laid concrete over half the yard. So now we have a nice patio to entertain and hang out, and West has a space for chalk art, trike riding, and the such. A great revision!

Second, I am doing final revisions to Book 4. My editor just finished with it, and I finished making his revisions last night. I’ve definitely grown as a writer with each book I’ve written. I’m now at a point where I can be very decisive about my editor’s comments. Most of his edits are valid, but there are a few that I choose not to follow based on knowing my own writing style, intentions, etc. It’s exciting to have this new confidence in my writing.

Third, I am having to revise bedtime routines with Westly. We were making great progress with him falling asleep by himself. Then the inevitably annoying thing happened: he caught a little cold. And because he couldn’t breathe well, I had to rock him to sleep the last two nights. I feel like I’m always taking two steps forward and two steps in my parenting. Well, as soon as his airways are open, we’re back to our new sleep routine…hopefully.

Revisions can be tough.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Little Doodle

Westly is growing up really fast this summer. He’s taller, has more hair, is communicating more than ever, climbing all over the place…

…And his most recent development: he is learning to fall asleep by himself in his crib. The past few weeks I’ve been gradually transitioning him from falling asleep in my arms to falling asleep in his crib. Now after he nurses, he points to his crib and when I ask if he wants to go night-night in his bed, he nods his head ‘yes’.

Today he did this for his nap, a first. I still have to stand next to him until he gets sleepy, but we’re making great progress. The goal is for him to fall asleep with me out of the room.

I’m sure this transition will lead to weaning soon. I get a little sad thinking about weaning, but I know it’s all a part of growing up.

Which makes me think I need to have at least one more baby...

…but not right now. Right now I’m going to relish the freedom I’m gaining with Westly’s growing independence.

And I’m going to finish writing my children’s mystery series.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Magic Magic Everywhere

One of my favorite moments on our trip to London a few years back—pre-Westly, that is—was taking time to do a little free-writing in Regent’s Park, just up the street from Baker Street. I had just toured the Sherlock Holmes Museum and felt inspired to write. I was working on Book 2 of my Sherlock Academy series at the time. Touring London—and more specifically, the neighborhood that is the setting for my series—grounded my stories and forever left an impression in my imagination.

That’s part of the reason London feels so magical: it’s steeped in our imaginations created by other authors. You push through the crowded platforms at King’s Cross Station, expecting to see a boy with round glasses and a caged owl. You wander through the Bloomsbury neighborhood and can’t help glancing up at the rooftops just in case a flying boy and his pixie are skipping over chimneys. You stroll along the paths in Kensington Park, looking for chalk art to jump into for a jolly holiday. You maneuver the traffic on Baker Street and strain your ears to catch the great detective scratching on his violin.

The city can’t help being magical, thanks to its great authors.

I can’t wait to first introduce Westly to all these wonderful stories, and then hopefully someday take him to the land where they were born.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Left My Heart in London

The Shaw Manor is all about the Olympics right now. On opening night, we hung our giant Union Jack flag, lined our TV with our little red phone booth piggy-bank, miniature double-decker bus, and solar-powered waving Queen Elizabeth. This was all in honor of the games being in London this year. Don’t worry, we are cheering the American teams on, but we do have some sentiment for Britain.

See, Michael is part British: his mum is from Brighton, England. I was meant to be British, I’m sure. And London is our favorite city in the world. Watching the Olympics take place there has made us miss London more than we thought.

Part of our love for that great isle is the rich literary history bred there that we adore so much. You can’t deny so many great writers have come from there. Just being in London and Oxford is enriching and inspiring and makes you want to pen your own great stories.