Friday, December 27, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

The happiest wishes
Are just old-fashioned wishes:
May your days be merry,
May your sorrows be small.
May the ones you love
Be near you
That's the happiest Christmas of all.


Friday, December 20, 2013


Back in August I made a goal for myself: to finish a first draft of my newest book by Christmas holiday. Last week, I met my goal! It was important for me to finish before Christmas because I knew once vacation hit, I would lose time and steam.

But now the real work can begin: revision. I must say, I prefer this process to writing a first draft from scratch. I like having a structure of a story to work with.

I'm setting another goal: have a working draft by Easter.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tis the Season

We've been having quite a ball celebrating the season. Every day we count down to Christmas with an ornament our Elf hides.

We've been eating lots of treats

And enjoying fire side nights

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Vacation

This year we went down to my family's. My grandma hosted the dinner and we spent the weekend with my parents. Two highlights this year: my sister surprised everyone by coming home early from Belize. And my brother and sister in law had their baby early. What a weekend!


Baby Margot Iona

We also had time to decorate the house for the holidays!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Plotting for Christmas

The past few months I've been trying to figure out what we should get Westly for Christmas. We've taken him to Toys R Us a few times and watched what he found interesting or gravitated toward. I've watched which toys he likes to play with at church and his friends' houses. It's kind of tricky. I know my kid pretty well, but he still manages to surprise me. And I need to figure out what he will like in a few months, as I want his Christmas gifts to take him into the new year.

His list I've made for him:

Wooden Train Track Set
Soccer Goal
Marble Maze

Any other suggestions?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Q & A

My favorite part of the author visits I do at schools is the Q & A time with the kids at the end. They always ask great questions. Here are a few I got this week:

Q: How long have you been writing?
A: Since I was about 8 or 9 years old.

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: Usually from the time I start writing to the time I release the book it takes about a year. It takes me about 3-4 months to get a first draft, then the rest of the time is spent on revising/editing.

Q: Which book is your favorite that you've written?
A: That's a hard one! I usually love the book I am currently writing, but now that I'm all finished writing the series, I have to pick one. I think Book 4. I took some risks in my writing and it paid off. The last book was the hardest for me to write, so I'm the most proud of that one.

Q: Where did you get the idea for Sherlock Academy?
A: From my love of Sherlock Holmes. He's my favorite literary character. I thought it would be great to introduce Holmes to kids by writing a series that involved him. The best ideas come from things you love. Write about what you love.

Q: What's you favorite thing about writing?
A: Imagination! The ideas are limitless. It's exciting to create something and use your imagination to ask "Why?" or "Why not?"

Q: What are you working on now that the series is finished?
A: Another middle-grade mystery. It's very different from Sherlock Academy, starting with the protagonist being a girl this time. But I'm excited about it. I hope to have a first draft done by Christmas.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Author Visit

This past Monday I did an author visit at North County Christian School in Atascadero. It was for grades 2-6th. I have to say I really hate all the pre-stuff to an author visit: scheduling, arranging, getting directions, estimating how many books to bring, finding a sitter for Westly, etc. But once I'm there in front of the kids, it's all worth it. I love sharing my ideas and all about stories with kids. I also love answering their questions, and best of all, signing a book for them. Someone asked me recently, "So what do you do?" Here's a general outline of my author visit presentation:

I start by asking kids to raise their hands if they love to read mysteries. Then if they love writing stories.

I introduce my series to them, and give them a little background on Sherlock Holmes and how he ties into my story.

We talk about elements of a great story. I have the kids share what they think a good story should have, and I use examples from my books. All their ideas are usually good and correct, but you can sum up what a story really needs with three things: character, setting, and plot (problem). I grab a volunteer to wear a top hat to represent character, one to hold a large map of London to represent setting, and one to hold my jar of marmalade to represent plot (the jar of marmalade is a key component of the plot in Sherlock Academy Book 1).

Next I share about my writing process: getting ideas, keeping a notebook of ideas, writing my ideas, publishing my ideas.

I reserve the last ten minutes for a Q & A time with the kids. After the presentation, I sign books.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Potted Potter

This weekend Michael and I went to a special theatre performance called Potted Potter. In this parody two actors played all the parts as they told/acted out all 7 Harry Potter books in 70 minutes. So much fun!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Slow Work

So I’m plunking away at my book. I’m making progress, but it’s S..L..O..W. First drafting (a term I made up for when you’re writing a first draft of a book), is slow work. I am creating the story from scratch, and still trying to find my way through the fog. I’m about 2/3 of my way through the book, but I’m still trying to flesh out the climax, and the message of the book. And I’m revising as I go along and solidifying the story. I’m averaging about a chapter a week, which takes about 3 hours to get down. I have to admit, I prefer the revision stage over first-drafting, because in the revision stage you have a structure to work with and can spend your time making it better. My goal is to have a first draft done by Christmas.

Plunk, plunk, plunk

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Look What I Found

Every three weeks Westly and I go to our little library in Orcutt. We've been doing this since he was about 18 months old. He loves it, and I know it's promoting literacy in his life. While I was perusing books in the children's section, I came across a delightful surprise that made me literally exclaim aloud "Oh!" It was a wonderful, surreal moment.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November's To Do List

Finish a first draft of my children’s book
Mail my grandma a birthday card
Make a Thanksgiving banner
Buy a knitted scarf
Make a list of editors to send my book to
Make Westly’s Christmas list
Drink more pumpkin spice lattes
Read through my first draft
Watch all the FRIENDS Thanksgiving episodes
Do a turkey craft with Westly
Make pumpkin French toast
Make my Christmas list
Mail my sister in Belize pictures of Westly
Find the perfect autumn shade of nail polish
Return library books and get more
Refrain from trimming my bangs—trying to grow them out
Do the 30-day abs workout plan
Get through my November InStyle mag
Make a list of agents to send my book to
Read Charles Finch’s latest mystery An Old Betrayal—can’t wait!
Buy Westly longer pants and bigger shoes
Celebrate my one-year friend-iversary with my bestie Erin

Decorate for Christmas

Friday, November 1, 2013

Birthday Wishes

Today is November 1, which is my darling husband Michael's birthday. He is one-of-a-kind, for I have never met anyone like him and I know I never will. I remember after first meeting him many moons ago I thought to myself, "I need this guy in my life, for he is so unique!"

He is ridiculously creative, sincerely dedicated, shamelessly energetic, genuinely funny, humorously opinionated, classically stylish, and holistically Michael. 

He loves me so perfectly, supports me in my passions, thinks of me constantly, and fills my life with joy,

He is a natural-born teacher, a gifted vocalist, an imaginative writer, an accomplished doodler, a superb event-planner, and most of all, he is the BEST daddy to Westly.

He has taken me on many adventures, has wooed me with many dates, has spoiled me with many presents, has enriched me with laughter, has challenged me in positive ways, and has provided for me immeasurably. 

I cannot imagine this world without Michael Shaw, and I cannot fathom my life without him. 
Happy Birthday, to my bosom friend and the love of my life!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Writer's Day

Last Saturday I went to a big writer’s day hosted by SCBWI. It was down in Thousand Oaks. My conference buddy Roni (who I carpooled with to the summer SCBWI conference), picked me up for the writer’s day as well. There were also two other writers and an illustrator who carpooled with us, making a total of five creative women in the car!

They picked me up at 5:45 am, which meant I had to be up at 4:45am. There are not too many things in life that will get me up and going that early in the morning…but a writer’s day is one of them.

There were several editors and authors who spoke, mainly on the theme of finding your voice as a writer. There was also a question/answer panel with the editors. The best part was the editor’s critique of my work. Two months ago I mailed in the first chapter of my current project to be critiqued by an editor. At the end of the conference I picked up my pages and the editor’s notes. They were very helpful and encouraging. She pointed out some things for me to think about and revise. She said my story is marketable. Best of all, she said she’d love to read more after I’ve revised/completed the book!

Who knows? Maybe this will be my “in”!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Dose of Autumn

We just can't get enough of this season. We spent the morning at Avila Barn with our besties. It was an especially lovely time because the weather was very chilly and fall-like!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chapter 2

Do you believe in miracles?
It was a simple question, but it did not have a simple answer. Or did it?
Miranda blinked at the question typed at the bottom of the paper she had found inside the toilet paper roll. The previous nine questions had been somewhat easy.
Question Two was simple: If you are looking at a rainbow where is the sun? Easy—behind you.
Question Four was odd: A butter knife has crumbs on the right side of the blade. Is the user right or left handed? She closed her eyes to visualize it—left-handed.
Question Seven was interesting: You are trapped in a room. The room has only two possible exits: two doors. Through the first door there is a room constructed from magnifying glass. The blazing hot sun instantly fries anything or anyone that enters. Through the second door there is a fire-breathing dragon. How do you escape? She took a few minutes to ponder this and came up with a solution—wait until night and exit through the door with the magnifying glasses.
Miranda was beginning to think she had a chance to score one hundred percent on the test. She wondered if there was a reward for doing so, and hoped it was greater than the window seat privilege.  
But Question Ten made her hesitate: Do you believe in miracles?
She had yet to witness a real miracle in her twelve years of life. And she had not met anyone who had. Sure, Tom Norton had claimed it was a miracle she had gotten the letter yesterday, but that was just an exaggeration. She was about to mark her answer.
She paused again. She had to answer the test truthfully, and truthfully she was not sure. She had no reason to believe in miracles, yet she found herself wanting to. A minute or so ticked by as she stared at the last question on the test.

Finally she marked her test.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Collecting Leaves

The other day West and I went to the park, and he decided to collect leaves. I was excited to see him do this because he's never taken much interest in nature before. He had a fun time rolling around on the grass and collecting fallen leaves. We've decided to use them for an art project. 

I sometimes wish coming up with idea for my writing was as easy as picking up leaves from the grass. There are times when it seems like the ideas are laying all around, waiting for me to pick them up. And there are other times when I have to go hunting. But it's not so much how I find them, it's how I use them once I've got them. Hopefully I turn them into art!