Friday, August 29, 2008

This Is My Story

I have lots of blogs that I read every morning before I get started on my daily word count. Every single one of them are in some way, shape, or form, writing related.

Two of the blogs are about screenwriting - no, I'm not working on a movie or anything, but they have great insight about character development, theme, action beats, pacing, etc.

Two of the blogs are agents who offer valuable insight into the world of publishing, not to mention they answer questions we lowly author wanna-be's ask.

One blog is from the CEO of a major publishing company. Anything he has to say is absorbed by thousands, and therefore worthy of my short attention span.

One blog is about marketing, and the rest are by other writers who are offering a variety of information . . . book reviews, help with the writing craft and technique, things they have learned along the road to publishing, and an infinite number of other topics (one even showed her readers how to knit a toilet seat cover - not the lid, but the actual seat!).

A comment today on one of the blogs got me to thinking. This reader posted that they come to this person's blog to get a specific type of information (in this case, insight into the publishing industry). The blogger happened to be tired (we know because she told us), and wrote about nothing work related.

The reader wasn't happy. They told her they were tired of reading blog posts about:
Cute pets (no pets, don't need a pet, couldn't even handle a goldfish at this point),
What the blogger ate for breakfast (in my case, a Diet Coke, bbq chips, and a grape, if anyone is interested),
What their kids were doing (I do this, like, EVERY DAY),
The funny thing that happened while doing their laundry (nothing funny about laundry, don't like laundry, piles of laundry as far as the eye can see),
and that the blogger should really consider getting back to what people came to their blog for in the first place, to read about the publishing industry.

So here's my thing. I'm a stay-at-home mother of three. A wife. A daughter. A sister. A friend. I'm trying to write tween adventure stories, AND adult romantic comedies. My world revolves around my kids, my husband, our home, our families, my writing, and if I have the time, reading.

And I am always looking for something light and funny to share so that some day my readers (both book and blog), will feel that personal connection to me. I look for the funny and ridiculous every day.

So I will probably keep writing about the goofy things that happen in our lives. I don't have great wisdom (or even tiny tips) to give other writers, I don't have insight into publishing, I'm not a CEO (unless you count CEO of Stewart Household, Inc.), and I don't know how to knit so you'll get no toilet seat covers from me.

This is my life. This is what I write about, and I hope you'll come back for more. See ya Monday!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Day in the Life

Well, there's really nothing new to report on the home front.

I guess that's good. Thus far (crossing my fingers and knocking on wood) we have no mini or major disasters to deal with. I pray it stays that way.

The boys have toys scattered from one end of the house to the other, literally; laundry is going, and we are praying the machines hold out for just another month before we need to replace them; the baby is in her play-yard lifting her leg in the air, a move worthy of a ballerina, and inspecting it up close and personal; and I am a few minutes away from getting started on my manuscript, and hopefully will meet my word count for the day.

I appreciate the relaxing days. I should probably learn to appreciate them even more. And again, I pray it stays this way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Conference Coming Soon

I am now moving past the "Get the Boys Ready for School" phase to the "Let's Panic Because I am Going to an IMPORTANT Writer's Conference in a Few Weeks" phase.

Saturday I had a meeting with our local writer's group OCFW, which is a local chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). ACFW annual conference will be in Minneapolis this year, and I am desperately trying to get my manuscript finished before I go. I signed up for an appointment with an editor and an agent who are looking for COMPLETED MANUSCRIPTS. See the problem?

So at our local meeting, the topic was "Getting Ready for Conference". A wonderful lady named Myra Johnson (who happens to be a friend of my mother-in-law, who happened to catch a ride with her from Tulsa to the meeting) gave a very informative talk about things you can do to prepare for the conference.

And there was a LOT of stuff. Some of her tips I knew. Some of her tips were new to me. All of her tips were excellent. I even joked to my mom about how organized this woman is, right on par with her level of organization.

But mostly I'm just freaking out (so what's new about that?). The advice I hear about most conferences is, "Try to relax. Don't be nervous. Editors and agents are people, too"

And I agree. They are people. People who have the power to accept or reject your work. People who have the power to make a life-long dream come true. People who have the power to make or break a potential writing career. So yeah, they are people, but people with a lot of influence over a writer's life.

So I want to be prepared for these people. I need to hide the crazy as best as I can. I need to be as professional as possible (says the girl in a ponytail in her cut-off sweats, flip-flops, and a t-shirt). I need to get organized and have all my ducks in a row before I leave.

And now I have to go, and get started on all this organization. See ya Wednesday.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Crazy Mommies and Telepathic Husbands

Well, another day of school, another Mommy freak out moment.

Here's the deal. We woke up late this morning because the alarm didn't go off due to operator error. (We'll leave it at that). So I am already in a rotten mood before we leave the house. I'm trying my best to fake calm and happy because I don't want the kids to get a negative idea about their morning routine or going to school.

We get to the school, and yay, we're on time. We start walking into the building, and see one of the boys best buddies from Pre-K being dropped off by her mom. I wave and give the mom a thumbs-up that I will escort her daughter to her classroom (not in class with one of the boys, though we wish she were, SUPER great kid). Little girl gets to class; I kiss Twin A, he gives me a huge hug (all smiles), and tells me good-bye. My husband escorts him into his classroom while I take Twin B to his room.

We start going through his morning routine in the class: back-pack in the cubby, important folder on top shelf of cubby, name tag on, go sign-in by the door. And by sign-in they mean put your name written on a card at the top of a sticky wall hanging.

Twin B is looking, I am looking . . . no name card. Dear Hubby approaches, and asks what is going on. I explain.

Now, here is where the 'Mommy Moment' starts. Twin B looks at me with desperate eyes, eyes that say, "Mommy, where is it? What do I do? I can't sign-in without my name card, but it's not here!" I try to be the calm one. "Honey, let's raise our hand and tell the teacher we don't see the card."

Desperate eyes widen, mouth droops, and he buries his face in my shirt. Great.

I raise my hand, and when the teacher approaches, I make him turn to face her while I explain the situation. She is as sweet as can be, gets him a new card, and he is all smiles as he sticks it to the wall hanging.

Then he faces me, gives me a huge hug, and says, "Bye, Mommy. I love you."

I fight back the tears (not really, but I am feeling very maternal at this point), and watch him rush to the carpet at the center of the room with his new friends.

Dear Hubby and I are leaving. He is watching the sea of humanity around us, kids everywhere; running, walking, talking, laughing, crying (yes, some of the little kids were still upset by day three), basically doing the things that kids do. He makes the innocent comment, "This will be so much easier on Monday when I drop them off."

I freeze. "You're not going to walk them to class?"

He pauses, unaware I am about to go postal. "No."

"You're walking them to class." I march from the building as DH now tries to keep up with me.

"But . . . honey, they're fine."

I know. "They still need someone with them."

We are now at my car, and DH is loading the baby into her car seat. He repeats, a little more slowly, "But honey, they're fine. They don't need us to walk them to class."

But I need us to walk them to class. "You're walking them to class." As if repeating the same thing is going to make him understand why I feel this way.

"I really think they'll be okay."

I sigh. Why can't my husband be telepathic, and just know why I'm acting crazy without me having to explain the crazy to him?

"Sweetie, I need you to walk them to class. Just until we're sure they know where to go, and what to do when they get there. Mostly until they know what to do when they get there."

"They can ask the teacher." AAHHHH! How am I supposed to fight logic with my emotional nonsense?

"I know. But just a little longer. Please?"

He sighs. "I'm not supposed to understand this, am I?"

I shake my head and smile. "Nope."

He smiles and hugs me. "Fine. I'll walk them to class a little longer."

"Thank you, honey."

"You owe me."

"I know."

Now we'll just have to see how it goes when I start pulling up in the car to pick them up after school, rather than walking to the front to get them.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Day of Kindergarten

Today is the day. We got the boys up and ready, fed them breakfast (waffles w/syrup and vanilla yogurt), combed their hair, brushed their teeth, back-packs loaded, and we were off to our FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN!

It was at least somewhat similar to Meet the Teacher day. Lots of cars, nowhere to park, kids and parents waiting in line to get in the building, drizzly and rainy, etc. We get everybody in the building, and of course mommy has to stop and take some pictures (and I'm sorry, I can't post the pictures until I get the USB cable from my mom's house, it got left there, long story), then we got Twin B to his class first.

We walk in, and of course my normally outgoing son clings to my side. He puts his back-pack in the cubby, takes out the papers his teacher asked us to fill out, and finds a place to sit, but does none of this less than two inches from me. But after a couple of minutes he started to adjust, and said he was fine with me taking Twin A to his classroom. Dear Husband and I promised to check on him again before we left, and we walked our other son to his room.

Same scenario. Velcro-Child has to be pried from my side, and moments later, he is fine. Hubby and I bounced back and forth between their classes for about ten minutes (a few minutes with one son, a few minutes with the other) until we felt sure they weren't going to have a last minute breakdown if we left. Which I highly doubt they would have, but still, I just had to make sure.

And now for Mommy. How am I doing? As I left (dear husband had to rush to work after we got the boys to class) I watched tearful mothers hugging or holding hands with comforting husbands. I saw one mom in Twin B's class hugging her child so tight I thought the kid was losing oxygen, and she looked ready to fall apart. But I didn't get that emotional, which is unusual for me because I cry at the drop of a hat.

Personally, I felt a moment of "Mommy Pride" that my little men are growing up. I felt apprehensive and fierce when one of my sons looked lost and unsure of himself after I left him. I wanted to grab the teacher, plant her beside his chair, and tell her not to leave his side ALL DAY in case he got worried or scared again.

Then I got a grip, waved and smiled when he finally noticed me standing by the door, and felt instant relief when he smiled and waved back, and went back to playing with a puzzle. Of course, I had to call my mom after I left, but I think over all, I'm doing okay.

I know they loved Pre-K, and I know they are going to love Kindergarten, too.

And I know I am going to love having a few hours of peace and quiet during the day, with the exception of Little Miss Prissy, who is now babbling non-stop.

More later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Books by Author Christy Barritt

I thought today I would do a book review, since I just read two books from an up and coming author, and positively loved them.

The author is Christy Barritt. The books are Hazardous Duty and Suspicious Minds, two books in her Squeaky Clean Mystery Series.

These are my first reviews, and I don't want to give too much away, but here goes.

Crime-scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire has problems. Forced to drop out of college while studying to be a forensic scientist, Gabby starts a crime-scene cleaning business, but discovers trouble at every turn.

In Hazardous Duty, she discovers evidence the police missed while cleaning a scene, and just can't keep her nosy little self from investigating on her own. Which of course leads to all sorts of trouble.

In Suspicious Minds, Gabby has been called for an estimate to clean mold from under a crawl space, and discovers Elvis, dead as a door-nail, beneath the house. And she can't keep herself from getting involved in this mystery, either.

The cast of characters in these books are great. Quirky neighbors; one (or three) romantic interests; devious villains; and not to mention our heroine, Gabby; these characters quickly become just like old friends.

I truly can't wait for author Christy Barritt's next books. They promise to be a hilarious riot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Meet the Teacher Day

Oh, what a morning!

I have to ask the question: When did school become so complicated?

Here's the situation . . . having grown up in a small town, I'm not used to the process of big school enrollment. We got to the school on this drizzly, rainy morning to an overflowing parking lot, and people lined up outside the building waiting to get in. We got all the kids, including the baby, into the building with a truckload of (or the baby's stroller overflowing with) school supplies.

We found the classrooms. Dropped the supplies in baskets outside the classrooms. Waited in line for twenty minutes per kid to talk with the teacher for five minutes. They asked us for a current utility bill. Huh? Why do we need that? Well, to prove you live at the address you have on the enrollment forms. Seriously?

Again, this is my small town mentality, not a direct reflection on the school itself, but who would be trying to sneak their kid into the school? Is it really that great? And why would it matter? I guess I just grew up in a place where we had one school, and everybody went there. Period. You knew who your teacher was going to be the next year because it was always the same teachers every year. A teacher retiring in our community was a BIG deal. We knew months in advance who the new teacher would be, and had probably visited their house a couple of times during the summer before we ever set foot in their classroom.

So then we had to figure out how the drop-off and pick-up routine works. We have paperwork thicker than my husband's graduate thesis to fill out. Every organization in the school wants volunteers and donations.

We are going to have to schedule our lives around their school schedule for the next thirteen years. I knew it was coming, but I thought we would be able to ease into it. Kindergarten not so bad, work up to more activities each year, but apparently they would like you to go in pedal to the metal, and don't stop until you graduate from high school.

But the boys seemed okay with the whole situation. I think they are going to like their teachers, and neither appeared to care they wouldn't be in the same class. The teachers talked with them about when they would get to see each other, and they were fine with it. When school actually starts, we'll know for sure how they are doing with the separation, but I honestly think they will be fine.

Now we just have to work on Mommy's separation issues.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Writing Life

Hello All.

This morning I wanted to blog about my writing process . . . just because I can. I need to vent a little.

I've been working on a new project for a few months now. This is unlike anything I've written so far (different age group, different genre), and it's taking me much longer than I imagined it would. I have to spend more time on research, not a bad thing, and more time editing and rewriting, also not a bad thing.

The area troubling me is concentration. I am shooting for a first draft by the middle of September. That's only a month away, and I'm not even halfway through the manuscript yet. YIKES! So I have been doing my best to write with kids in the house, frustrating to say the least, but I've been making some progress. Yay!

Now comes the weird part, and probably too much information for most of you out there, but I have been getting way too many story ideas lately, especially in the shower. It's like an idea incubator. The problem is that I don't get scene ideas or dialogue for the story I'm working on now. I keep getting new stories, new scenes, new characters. AAHHHHH!

I just want to finish what I'm working on. I don't want any new ideas yet. Why can't creative thoughts be turned on and off like a light switch? Need a new story? Hop in the shower and lather hair until idea forms. Not ready for a story? Normal shower with no extra thoughts.

Simple, yet oh, so complicated.

But I also know there are worse problems to have, like writer's block, where you have nothing flowing at all.

I plan to have the draft completed in a few weeks, and then I'll put all those other ideas to good use.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to School Time

Oh, where does the time go?

A week from today, my twins will start Kindergarten. (Sniff, sniff.)

Okay, tearful moment over.

This is very exciting, for the boys and for me. They will be in separate classes for the first time, and I am interested to see how they do apart. When my husband first told them they would be in different classrooms, they objected, but quickly let the issue go. I guess they are like their daddy in that way; if it hasn't happened yet, don't worry about it.

But I know they've been thinking about it because Twin B sat down on my lap yesterday and started asking me lots of questions about where would he be, where would Twin A be, would they be in the same building, would they see each other, etc. I explained they would be in different rooms with different teachers, but would still see each other during recess, at lunch, and at home every day. This seemed to satisfy him and he let it go. Then we started practicing tying our shoe laces.

They will meet their teacher on Monday, and we'll find out how the whole Kindergarten processes work; drop-off, pick-up, lunches, buses, school activities, etc.

It's a big step for the little guys, and I'm very excited. We have school supplies, school clothes, and we're ready to go.

I'll keep you posted on how Meet the Teacher goes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Good to be Home

Home again, and happy to be here!

That was one WILD adventure. Surprisingly, the drive out wasn't so bad. We left at 4:30am from my mother's house with the idea that the kids would sleep for the first four hours of the trip, and make the remainder of the day more bearable. Didn't happen. They were wide awake the moment we put them in the car, and didn't fall asleep for two hours. And even then they only slept about 45 minutes.

The boys watched movies and colored for most of the trip, the baby played with her own feet, even though we gave her plenty of toys.

Our first stop in Holbrook, Arizona was good. We met up with dear hubby's older brother and his family at the hotel to swim and have dinner (pizza and Taco Bell). I had a headache and needed to rest, but we all had a good time anyway.

We got on the road, but not soon enough, and spent the hottest part of the day driving through the desert in 115 degree heat. But the car did fine, and we arrived at our destination in Yorba Linda, CA with minimal trouble (a couple of wrong turns, but nothing major). We were excited to see the in-laws and all went to dinner, where I had my favorite dessert of all time, and even the baby loved it. She flirted endlessly with the boyfriend of one of the in-laws dear friends, and kept everyone cracking up.

The next couple of days were pretty relaxing for us; hanging by the pool, rehearsal dinner, a morning trip to the beach where I forgot it is possible to sunburn even on a cloudy day and my scalp was scalded where I part my hair.

And then it was time for the wedding. Getting three children and myself ready is no picnic, but we got the job done. My husband looked so handsome in his tux, and everyone there looked great. The Rose Garden was beautiful, the ceremony was perfect, and the Cinderella Coach whisked the bride and groom away to the reception (or just a few feet away so the family could take pictures while other guests enjoyed pre-reception food and drinks). Then on to the reception, where everyone danced into the wee hours of the night, or where my hubby and I nearly fell asleep at the table from exhaustion and begged to leave a little early after giving our love to the gorgeous bride and grudgingly-admitted handsome groom. (Just kidding! Love you, James!)

On to Disneyland the next morning. Oh, boy. Picked up the kids from my mom's hotel room VERY early in the morning, and we did the Disney thing ALL DAY! Rode lots of rides, found out the boys are roller coaster monsters (along with my brother), my sister-in-law wanted to do everything and I do mean EVERYTHING, my mom is a bit of a dare-devil herself, and rode things I never thought to see her on.

Dear Hubby and I just tried to keep up with everyone. We celebrated the boys birthday, short and sweet, and on to more rides we went. Had to carry two sleeping children and stroll the baby from the park that night, and started all over again the next morning at California Adventure park. Not nearly as crowded, and tons of fun. God bless my mother-in-law who took the baby for the day (Thank you, Carla!) because I don't think she would have made it.

We rode everything we could get to, loved the Hollywood Tower Hotel ride, my brother loved California Screamin, and my mom of all people loved the MaliBoomer. This is a ride that shoots you straight up in the air and drops you back down in a free fall before you catch again. She rode it three times. Unbelievable. S-I-L loved it all, of course, and after going back over to the Disneyland park for the light show, we still had to carry exhausted, sleeping children from the park.

And even though we planned to leave the next morning, we stayed an extra day to rest up (which we didn't even come close to getting enough rest) and then headed home.

All-in-all, a great trip. More later.