Friday, October 7, 2011

Why I Feel Like Junk

I miss you all!! I am still feeling like crap.

Here is why I am:
Hooked up to an IV
Have medicine streaming through a tube into my stomach 24/7
Practically living in my bathroom, living over Mr. Toilet
Losing about 1/2 pound a day
Fantasizing about food that I can't eat or keep down...

I am pregnant!

We are really excited about having a new baby, but pregnancy does not love me. Hopefully I've only got another month of this because my body is going to give out on me soon. Thank heavens for modern medicine. If I couldn't have all this stuff at home, I'd be in the hospital right now. But with it, I get to veg and be miserable at home. I have good days and bad days, and good parts of any days and I am in an okay day for the first time in a long time.

 The good news (or pathetic news, depending on how you want to look at it) I have been taking this time as an opportunity to catch up on my reality television--Dance Moms, Project Runway, Top Chef-Just Desserts, X-Factor, Say Yes to The Dress, What Not to Wear, VH1s Top Songs of the '00, and anything else Bravo, Lifetime, or TLC wants to throw my way. I'm not picky. My brain may be slowly eating itself with all of this tv, but it is what it is.

But I actually wrote a blog post here. It is my first blog post since I started blogging over there, and it actually has something to do with books and literature (it's called Lit Can Change Lives) instead of my current, embarrassing television habits.  Please check it out and leave a comment. :)

Oh! And more good news. Jolene Perry's book, The Next Door Boys, is out! I read this book for the first time about ten months ago. It was the first book I ever read by her and I loved it. So happy it was published. :) If you liked Meg's Melody, I really think you'll like The Next Door Boys. I should interview Jolene. Or maybe just post some of my favorite quotes from our emails....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just Go Here

I haven't been feeling too great lately so my Internet attendance has been sporadic.

Anyway, if you haven't yet, check out the awesome group blog I'm a part of: For The Love of Contemporary.

And you don't have to take just my word for how awesome it is. :) Jessie has written a fabulous list.

Here's hoping I'll be back in the land of Alive and Kicking soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Critique Groups

Here are the facts of my critique group.

--I've been in it for 2 1/2 years
--Without them, I never would have finished my first book (Meg's Melody)
--We meet once a month
--We alternate whose house we meet at
--Usually we all bring something to share (1-6 pages)
--We do it at lunchtime so we can eat and critique
--We have a wide range of writers: women's fiction, romance, literary, YA, nonfiction, and middle grade (plus some crossovers: LDS, scifi, historical, etc). I love having the diversity because all of our strengths lie in different areas.

Just this week we decided that we should email our pages to the group before we meet, so that we have time to read and think about them before we get together. I know I have a harder time thinking of critiques right off the top of my head, when everyone is looking at me, expecting me to say something, but if I have time to gather my thoughts, then I can actually give decent feedback.

I also have some online crit partners that I regularly send my work to for "right now" feedback: Jolene Perry (gets the most of my stuff), DeAnn Huff, and recently Kelley Vitollo. All three write YA and are extremely talented women.  I have other beta readers that I send my full book to when I am finished and they are amazing (but that will have to be a different post)

So how do you run your crit groups? Do you have any tips? Have they helped you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Giveaway: Prized by Caragh O'Brien


I'm hosting a contest as part of Enna Isilee's Birthday Bash 2011 Presented by Squeaky Books

From August 22nd until September 22nd Enna Isilee at Squeaky Books is having a HUGE bash to celebrate her birthday! There’s a giveaway nearly EVERY DAY, tons of author interviews, and guest posts from a bunch different YA book bloggers. And I get to host a contest!


I get to give away an ARC copy of Prized by Caragh O’Brien! Entering is simple, just fill out the form (with optional bonus entries). You have until September 21st at 11:59 MST to enter. All winners will be announced on Enna Isilee's birthday (September 22nd) on Enna Isilee's blog (Squeaky Books). And today, Ennalee interviewed Caragh at Squeaky Books. You should totally go check it out.

Want to know more about Prized? Click here!
Without further ado, enter to win! Click below.


Click here to enter

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Giveaways and Other Really Awesome Things

The new blog: For The Love of Contemporary is up and running!!

Come check it out, become a follower, and see all of the awesome books we're giving away. These are some of our favorite books, so it is a fabulous giveaway.

See you there :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just Curious

This came up the comments section of an earlier post, and it got me thinking about rereading books.

I've reread almost every book I own (all of my fiction books that I bought before two years ago, I've reread at least once.) I LOVE rereading books. In fact, most of the time, I like them better the second time because I all ready know what's going to happen, so I can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Plus, school kind of ruined me. I have a degree in English lit, so I had to read a ton in college. I remember one semester I had to read 47 books. So I learned to speed read. And I can not get out of the habit. I speed read everything I read. So if you quiz me on a book (or even ask me about it a few months later) I've forgotten most of the details--I remember the big picture, but that's it. So rereading is fun for me to revisit stories that I blew through the first time around.

Do you reread your books? Just your favorites? None at all?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Spark That Got Me Writing



I've always known that I wanted to be a writer. At a really young age, I remember bringing a list to my parents and announcing that I waned to:

a) Act
b) Sing
c) Write

Acting--It didn't take me too long to realize that I was too shy to act in front of people (exhibit A: the disastrous school play try-outs of sophomore year. I wish I could wipe those memories from my brain)

Singing--I do well enough to sing my kinds a goodnight song and sing along with the hymns at church (you know, blended with about 150 other people) but I realized--also in high school--when a friend wanted me to sing with him, that I was way too shy to sing in front of people. (And I won't tell you about the time someone was covering their ear when singing next to me. I tried not to be offended...)

That left writing--which was my favorite one on the list anyway. I used to make my sister write stories with me instead of play. We were endlessly starting clubs together, and part of those clubs was that we'd have to write stories back and forth with each other. She never complained (maybe because I'm the oldest) and she always read everything I wrote (still does).

But there were three experiences that made me realize that I COULD be a writer.

1) Sophomore year of high school. We had a group project in history/English (combined class) where we could present our information any way we wanted. My group decided to write a soap opera and act it out (I know, acting. I had a bit part.) It was hilarious. We had the class bending over and almost crying because they were laughing so hard. It was awesome to help write something so entertaining.

2) Junior year of high school. We had to write an epigraph paper--so basically we had to find a quote that we loved and write a personal essay about that quote. I chose a quote from James M. Barrie: "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." The I wrote about a time a group of us spent an evening with a friend's lonely grandpa, listening to his stories, drinking root beer, and having a great time. My teacher cried when she read it. I'd never had anyone cry when reading something I'd written. It really made me feel special.

3) Senior year of high school. We had to write personal essays again. It was a nice break after all of our lit crit essays we wrote to practice for the AP English test. I wrote an essay about a bike race between my sister and I that ended in disaster. I got it back and it had an A+  Great job!! and then he read it to the class. It was powerful having other people read and listen to something I wrote.

There are a lot of other experiences that continued to fan my writing flame into college and beyond and give me confidence that I could be a writer, but the KEY experiences all happened in high school--all three in my English classes. English teachers do have the power to help their students achieve their dreams. Mine will probably never know what an impact just a few words in an entire year of lectures and reading and discussing meant to me. I'm glad I'm a writer (and not a singer or an actor.)


Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Just Too Close

I have son with Down Syndrome and because of that, people are often recommending books where characters have children with DS as a major plot point. There are several, but the two that are most well known is Jewel and The Memory Keepers Daughter. And I've read the synopses (I actually had Jewel for over a year) but I just can't bring myself to read them.

The reason? It's just too close to what I'm living right now.

I've read several non-fiction books on DS (those are a necessity), but I have a hard time with the fiction.

I don't know if I'm worried that they'll bring up something that I'm not worried about right now, but will be after reading the book. Or if it will just break my heart because no matter what I'll identify the DS character with my son. In real life my heart already breaks a little at a time every time I have to take him to the doctors for more tests and poking and proding, to the hospital for surgery, after surgery, after no-end-in-sight surgery, or when I hear kids whisper about why he's acting "funny." But I love him like crazy, so we do these things with a big, huge (kind of strained) smile so that he's not scared. I guess when we're done with it in real life, I don't want to read about it, too.

Not that it's all hard. There's the good stuff, too. The hugs and the smiles and the times he accomplishes things we've been working on for forever, and his laugh is the best laugh in the world--but I don't need to read about it. I can just go hug my son and tickle him and hear him laugh right then. That's so much better to me.

Is there any subject that is just hard for you to read about?

(And my sparkfest post is coming tomorrow...)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

See anything missing?


Look at the bears closely. Now do you see it?



The eyes.

I crocheted this afghan for my four year old—just finished it about a month ago, actually. It took me a year and a half to finish. Well, almost finish.

The eyes are a pain. They are supposed to be French knots, so I had a friend come and teach me how to tie French knots. I did an experimental bear, and 2/3 of my children had pulled the eyes out in less than five minutes.

Buttons: My kids would choke. The odds just swing that way for us.
Yarn Xs: The bears looked dead. It was totally morbid.
Yarn circles: a huge pain—they looked more like squares and were funky.
Felt circles: Not sure how I’d attach them so they don’t fall off.

I don’t have a ton of motivation to figure it out. My son doesn’t care. He loves it without the eyes. He’s been waiting 18 months for this blanket. He’s just excited to have it. So in my book, it’s done. He’s happy. I’m happy-ish. Moving on to the next blanket (a lion blanket) for my six-year-old.

I am not this blasé in all areas of my life. Maybe I’m just sick of this afghan or maybe my son’s excitement outweighed any OCD perfectionism tendencies that I might have had about it. I know with my writing, I always try to curb my tendency to lean toward perfectionism. I don’t want to perfectionize the voice right out of my writing. I go through and want to make sure all of my scenes have their “eyes” in place, but sometimes it’s the lack of eyes that makes something interesting.

And sometimes we just tell ourselves that when we’re feeling lazy. J

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to life? To writing?

Friday, August 19, 2011

For the Love of Contemporary

A few weeks ago, my friend Jolene Perry told me about this really fun, super ambitious project that her and Kelley Vitollo were working on: A blog dedicated completely to contemporary YA fiction.

I love contemporary YA.

So when Jolene and Kelley asked me if I wanted to be a part of their new blog, I was seriously excited. Probably too excited. In fact, it’s amazing Kelley hasn’t blocked me from the group email based on the long, mostly irrelevant emails I’ve been sending (Jolene is used to these, so I’m sure it doesn’t faze her.)

But I guess they’re okay with my tendency to say a short story long, because Jolene, Kelley, Stephanie Campbell, Kelley York, and I have been cranking away, setting up a lot of really cool things:

Interviews and guest posts from Sarah Ockler, Tara Kelley and more
Giveaways (first one in September)
Contests
Fab indie book reviews
Reviews of any YA contemp we can get our hands on and just love
Lots of teen participation (reviews, stories, guest posts)
Our favorite literary crushes
Delving into social issues
And so much more!! This has been a seriously fun project to be involved with.

The official launch is September 1st and we are going to be giving away loads of YA books.

So come here, check it out, and become a follower.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Borrow or Buy?

I love going to the library.
I've already been there twice this week. It's close, cool, and comfortable (the three c's you need fo a small town AZ summer)

Here is why I love the library:
1) It's free.
2) The librarians are great and do a really fun reading time.
3) My kids can check out twenty books a week.
4) If I check something out that I hate, I can just take it back.
5) We have a pretty decent YA section/New Release section

I also love the bookstore.
I've somehow convinced my husband on our last two dates to "drop in" to the bookstore (meaning, stay there an hour or more.)
I can't go into a bookstore without buying at least one book for myself, and my kids, and my husband.

Here is why I love buying books:
1) I get to have that book forever to read and reread again.
2) I can loan it out to all of my friends.
3) I can mark it up if I feel so inclined.
4) When I have a hard time sleeping, I love looking at all the books in my bookcase (its against the wall next to our bed, together my husband and I have over 500 books)and for some reason it's comforting to me--don't ask me why.
5) I feel like I'm helping support authors I love.

So which do you prefer? Do you like to check most of your books out at the library or do you buy most of what you read? And why?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It Is Really, Really Hot

My air conditioner broke today and the guy can't come out until tomorrow.

It is hot in my house.

Really, really hot.

Like I'm blogging at 11pm because it's too hot to sleep, hot.

Like I'm emailing all of my writing friends at 11pm to see if they are awake also, hot. (Because, let's face it, writers keep really weird hours and are probably the only people I know who stay up really late on week nights.)

I really wanted to work on my wip tonight, but kept getting distracted. Emails from friends, two separate school functions, broken air conditioning units, phone calls from two different family members and a friend (a saint friend who made me dinner.)

And I'm at this really great place in my wip that I'm really excited to write and where all the fun stuff and kissing (yes, kissing) is about to happen, and I can not find time to sit at the computer and write (well, except this blog post...)

Do you ever have those days when you are dying to work on something, but just can't seem to make it to the computer?

Or can you just send cool thoughts my way to make up for the broken a/c?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dog lovers will hate me, but...

I really shouldn't even write this post. And the only reason why I am doing this is because the person who owns the dog I'm going to tell you about doesn't read this blog. I think she doesn't read it. If she does, then I am very, very sorry.

So my friend called and asked me if I could:

a) come over and let her dog out of the kennel (Jack Russel Terrier--there's a huge possibility I just made this kind of dog up, but I think that's what she said--and if that statement doesn't tell you how much I don't know about dogs, nothing will.)

b) Take the dog into the backyard so that it can do it's business

c) Put the dog back in the kennel.

Oh--and her dog will probably be really excited to see me.

So I asked her, "When the dog is done with it's business, do I just open the kennel door and it'll go back inside?" There was a long pause after I said this, while she probably (rightfully) second guessed asking me to help, and she told me that I'd have to pick the dog up and put it in the kennel.

Pick the dog up??? I kind of had an freak out moment on the inside, but I'd already said I'd do it, and I am a committer almost to a fault, so I told her it'd go great, and to go out of town, no worries.

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon convincing myself that I was a dog person (despite my past of disliking/being deathly afraid of dogs.) My friend Kathy has a five year old chocolate lab that we go on walks with every day. I love that dog. Never mind that when I water her plants when she goes out of town, I have to pep talk myself into going into her house and always call out to the dog first thing so that she doesn't attack me (she's never attacked a person in her life, and she loves me, but I still get freaked). And my friend Dee has an adorable little Yorkie that I hold and even let lick in the air in front of my face (not quite there for face licking just in case she turns crazy and bites my lips off). So I am a dog person, in some select instances.

4pm rolled around and I loaded my kids in the car to drive them around the corner (it was too hot to walk) and I went into the house where the dog was going crazy jumping everywhere and yapping. I gave it the treat--which it rejected--and got it out and slapped the leash on it really quick.

I took it out front yard...but it would not go to the bathroom.

So I took it in the backyard...but it would not go to the bathroom.

I thought the leash might be killing it's mojo, so I took the leash off and went inside. But the dog followed me inside, darted past me, and ran through the front door that I had (stupidly) left open. So I was standing there with this stupid empty leash, kind of shocked, watching this dog that is like my friend's child, run away. And here's the thing--in case you hadn't noticed yet--I don't know the dog's name, I don't know the gender, and I'm kind of hazy of what kind of dog it is in the first place. So I didn't know what to call out to get the dog to come back.

I ran out front in a smidge of a panic, and started yelling, "Here, dog! Here, dog!" and patting my legs to get it to come. It came running and me full force, so I turned and ran back in the house, and it started jumping all over me and tasting my legs, and scratching me all up--and only people who are afraid of dogs can understand how much this kind of thing can freak a person out. So I pushed it into the backyard while I took a moment to get my panicked breathing back to normal.

At this point, I didn't even care if it went to the bathroom or not. I needed to get out of there. I was all alone with this dog, and I was getting frustrated, and kind of wanting to cry (because that's my emotion overload default response), so I opened the back door and the dog came running back in. I opened the kennel door and told it to get in, but it wouldn't.

And here's the other thing, I was afraid of raising my voice, because I worried that it would be like an invitation to attack, so I was talking to the dog like you'd talk to a six month old baby--all high pitched and happy and smiley, but I was saying, "Get in your crate you stupid dog. I kind of hate you right now. Get in before I scream." And it kept opening it's mouth all the way, showing me all it's teeth, and it kind of reminded me of my trip to Louisiana and all of the alligators. So I steeled my courage, grabbed the collar, and dragged it into the kennel.

And it escaped before I could shut the door.

So I had to grab it again (and now it thinks we're playing all rough or something and it trying to gnaw on my arm) and I drag it back to the kennel, slam the door shut, tell it goodbye (in my nice voice) and leave. My hands were shaking when I got to the car.

Does anyone else have delusions about their abilities sometimes?

This is a common theme in my life. Somehow I convince myself that I can do things--even when prior experience has told me that I can't. I guess I'm the hopeless optimist (I have to be to keep sending out query letters, but that is another story.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Overheard Conversation

I took my son to the doctor this afternoon and overheard this conversation between two women and I HAVE to share it. I have to idea what they were talking about my my imagination has kind of been going while all afternoon.

Woman #1: I just got back from the sauna retreat.
Woman #2: What did you think?
#1: It was really intense.
#2: Yeah, they are really intense, but very spiritual, too.
#1: I know what you mean, but intense.
#2: We had a retreat a few weeks ago and you'll never believe who (garbled name) invited.
#1: Who?
#2: Well you know we don't invite ANYONE in law enforcement, lawyers, judges, or anything like that.
#1: Or prostitutes. We don't invite prostitutes either. (by the way, my ears totally perked up at the word prostitute, and I didn't even pretend like I was reading my book anymore)
#2: Yeah, no prostitutes. Well, (garbled name) invited a parole officer!
#1: NO! What happened?
#2: Well, everything was fine the first day, but then the second day we did (her voice was too low for me to hear what they did, dang it!) and he started questioning things.

And then the doctor called her back! I was going "No!!!!!!" in my head because I needed to hear more about what kind of lives these women live.

But, no worries about me being bored. The other lady in the waiting room took the silence as an opportunity to tell me about how her husband just sold their house out from under her and forcing them to move to Oklahoma (they are moving next week), for no reason at all, because neither of them have jobs--totally venting to me! But we got called back before I could dive further into that.

I love doctor's office waiting rooms sometimes. We are in them a LOT (my oldest has a ton of health problems) and the things I've overheard.... Although, this sauna thing was the most intriguing conversation of all.

Have you ever overheard something juicy? Do these conversations ever make it into your books?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Someday I'll Be A Beautiful Butterfly and Everything Will Be Better

This quote from A Bug's Life is a common theme among writers (and my children.)

 For the past several weeks, my four-year-old has been on this "When I turn five..." kick. I've heard him say:

When I turn five, then I can read.
When I turn five, then I can watch Harry Potter (this is not true, but for some reason he thinks it is.)
When I turn five, then I will be big and strong.
When I turn five, then I will have so much fun.

And I can't help but wonder: What's so bad about being four? He's built up five-years-old in his mind to be this amazing age where all of his dreams are going to come true. I can't help but laugh every time he gets this dreamy look on his face, and I know he's about to tell me about something else he'll be able to do when he's five. (By the way, he doesn't turn five until March.)

But, maybe I'm as bad as he is. I remember saying, "When I get published..."
a) I'll feel validated for all of my hard work
b) I'll know I'm a good writer
c) I'll be so happy
d) I'll never doubt my writing again

Now I say, "When I get an agent..."
(Fill in the blank with a, b, c, or d from above.)

I know there are others out there that feel the same way, who think the same things. I worry that we're missing the joy of the journey and the joy of just writing because we love to write. When writing becomes less of an escape and more of a business, I'm afraid we're cheating ourselves of the very reason we started writing in the first place. Not that I don't think that being published is great. Not that I wouldn't LOVE to have an agent. But what if the focus shifted off of how happy I'll be when that happens, to being happy with where I'm at right now?

If we're too busy wishing we are somewhere else, then we're missing how great life can be where we're at. I still think we should be working toward our goals of getting an agent or getting published or whatever our personal writing goals are, but we need to find contentment in that journey. And never, ever forget why we began writing in the first place.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How My Stories Start

I love writing. I love when I sit down and these characters come into my head and I have to tell their story.

For me, my stories start with the characters. Always.

With Meg's Melody, it all started with Meg and the fact that her husband had left her. That's it. There wasn't a Matt a Johnny or a pregnancy or issues with her Mom or any of that fleshed out in my mind yet. It started with a girl who was really sad (and kind of bitter) because her husband just left. My first draft of Meg's Melody was all in first person. I LOVED it, but felt like Matt needed to be fleshed out a little more. So, for kicks, I decided to write his side of the story from his pov. I liked it so much and felt it added to the story, so I had to merge the two story lines together. I've wondered sometimes how the first person version would have been received. It was a little funnier and Meg was quite a bit quirkier. A lot of that was lost when I went to third person, but I really think I gained by having Matt's story in there, too.

For Falling (I know, I know, most of you haven't read Falling yet, but it's on my mind so much I have to blog about it) my story began one night when my husband was out of town and I was supposed to be doing edits on Meg's Melody, but I needed a break. I opened up a new document because I had this girl saying to me, "My brother didn't die in the accident, but sometimes I wish he would have." And I had to ask myself: What accident? If he didn't die, what happened to him? And why does she wish he was dead? The first draft of this story was really depressing (by the way, no one has read any of my first drafts except for me. From first draft to second draft is extremely different--which is why no one gets to read them!) so I had to go through and give Brenna some lighter moments here and there. It's still a very serious book, but there are a lot more lighter moments that her voice originally led me to believe there could be.

Then there's my YA wip about kissing. And friendship. Two of my favorite things to talk about when I was a teen. But the story idea started with this girl named Chole who has to be in charge all the time--her voice just came through as snarky and spunky and kind of controlling. I love Chloe. She's the spunkiest character I've ever written and she doesn't let anyone get away with anything. This is the one that I'm actively working on and having so much fun with it.

(I'm also working on another LDS one. I'll post more about that one later. Also so much fun.)

I know I've said this before, but characters are where it's at for me. If I love the character I'm writing, then I'm loving my writing and having so much fun doing it.

I'm always curious about how other people start their stories.
Do you have to have the entire idea for your plot and where you're going before you start a story? Or do you just start with a character that starts saying crazy crap and go from there?
Or is there some other method unique to you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Withdrawals

I live in Small Town, Arizona where we only have one option for Internet. (Cox, how I hate and love you at the same time).

There was an Internet outage in our area yesterday and I was going through some serious email/blog/FB withdrawals. I'm one of those people who don't have Internet on my phone ( I still have a flip phone, our television is from when my husband was a teenager, and our laptop is a refurbished castoff from his work--all this not because we don't love technology, but because our kids, bless their hearts, are destructive. And as under-functional as these old electronics are, they hold up well under sticky fingers and drool.) Anyway, I didn't have Internet for over 24 hours. (Until I remembered the 3G access on my Kindle, but it was such a pain to write an email, I gave up.) (Also, it's kind of telling that the newest electronic we have is a Kindle--you see where my priorities are.)

Also, sickness has decided to pay a visit at the Baldwin home, so I probably shouldn't be putting anything out there on my blog today, having only eaten a handful of crackers and some toast in two days, but here I am. Relishing the Internet, just because I can. (And writing a lot of asides and tangents, just because I can.)

Okay, back to the couch to cuddle with my little cuties and watch a movie.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In which I have delusions about my abilities

Cabin fever.

We have a serious case of it over here at the Baldwin home.

It is over 100 degrees outside with the relentlessly bright sun killing everything in our yard, and me and my three extremely fair skinned children can't go out in that without paying a price.

So I took them to McDonalds last week to play in the indoor playplace. My oldest set off the alarm, tried to do it two more times, threw his shoes at people, knocked trays off the table, tried to run off, the decided to top it all of by screaming, screaming, screaming, until I could gather his scattered shoes, my other kids and their shoes, and drag all three out to the car (fyi, people glare at you if your kids decide to go limp on said walk and you literally drag them a few feet until they stand up--using their perfectly healthy legs God gave them for a reason). I think people actually cheered when we left.

So McDonald's is out for the rest of summer.

And pretty much any public place, since I want to keep my sanity.

So a friend of mine suggested we set up a tent in the house for the kids to play in. Great idea. Awesome idea, in fact.

And, although I'm not a camper, my husband is, so we have seven tents, I believe. (Don't ask me why a family of five that has only gone camping together TWICE has seven tents.) I picked the red one because I like the color red, and started to set it up.

What followed was the most frustrating venture with a tent that has four stupid poles that I had to stretch out and put in the right holes and then keep the tent from collapsing. Right when I was in the middle of the most frustrating part (where if I were a swearing kind of gal, there would have been words flying) my little sister called.

When I told her what I was doing, she just laughed and laughed and asked me, "Kaylee, do you not remember that you are not a camper."

"You shouldn't have to be a camper to know how to put up a tent," I replied, holding the phone between my ear and my shoulder because I was still trying to keep the stupid tent up (my kids had prematurely crawled inside of it, so I couldn't let it collapse.)

I finally ghetto-rigged it up (really, it was more "up-ish," but I was done.) My husband took one look at it when he got home and just started laughing. He then pulled it apart (saying, "How in the heck did you get the poles to go like this?) and showed me how to do it. Then informed me that I picked the hardest tent we have to set up. That's what I get for choosing because of color.

So my kids had fun and that's all that really matters.

We still have three and a half weeks of summer and I want us to have FUN!

Do you have any fun, indoor activity ideas I can do with my children?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Countdown to Love Review


From back cover:
Kelly Grace Pickens is an excited bride - until she's abandoned at the altar. Desperate, she accepts an offer to appear on a reality TV show, Count Down to Love. Her country ways are a stark contrast to the mysterious bachelor from New York. Wading through hurt and betrayal both on and off screen, Kelly discovers that being true to yourself is essential to finding happiness and love.

My thoughts:
If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I love The Bachelor, so when I got the chance to review this book, I was really excited. I started reading it the day I downloaded it, and finished it in one evening. So much fun. I really enjoyed this book. Kelly Grace is an extremely likable character and she works through her hurt and trust issues--something that is especially difficult when she finds herself falling in love with a man that several other girls are chasing as well. I highly recommend to those who are looking for a fun, romantic comedy with a little more depth than usual or those who love The Bachelor. I will be reading this one again.

Here is the author’s website:  JulieNFord.com

And here is the author’s blog: Queries2Reviews.wordpress.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Email Obsession

I just discovered this interesting little feature on gmail. Down in the very bottom right corner there is a tab that says: Last Account Activity: Details (and you can click on the details link). I'm sure this feature is to make sure you haven't been hacked or that other people aren't getting into your email.

Not mine. It shows that I logged in all at the same computer. And these are my log in times:

Jul 6 (18 hours ago)
Jul 6 (18 hours ago)
Jul 6 (17 hours ago)
Jul 6 (16 hours ago)
Jul 6 (15 hours ago)
Jul 6 (15 hours ago)
Jul 6 (11 hours ago)
**then I must have gone to bed**
Jul 7 (1.5 hours ago)
Jul 7 (58 min ago)
Jul 7 (0 min ago)

I'd label this a wake-up call for my obsession for checking my email, but I already knew I had a problem. I can't walk past my computer without logging in and checking my inbox. I guess that's what happens when you're querying and waiting to hear back from agents!

How often do you check your email?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Birthday Winner

Congrats to Julie Coulter Bellon for winning my birthday prize! Thank you all for entering. I'll be doing another giveaway in a few months, because I love giving away books :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just waiting around for me to come

My feelings were hurt the day I did the math and figured out that my parents waited NINE MONTHS after getting married to get pregnant with me.

Up until this point, I figured that they got married just for the sole purpose of getting pregnant, and therefore having...me. What else would they want in life but a beautiful daughter? What were they doing in those nine months that were better than having a newborn baby? I guess I always just pictured them sitting around, yearning for me, never really living until they had me.

Pretty self-absorbed, right? (My sisters, if reading this, will not be surprised at all that I felt like the whole of our parents' younger lives were just a series of angst-filled, empty moments until I came along to give them purpose and joy.)

Since then, I often wonder how many children believe that they're parents' lives started when they were born.

How many authors feel that way about our characters? Like our characters have been sitting in some dark place somewhere, just waiting for us to discover them, and the only moments that really matter in their lives are the ones that we put down on paper. Anything before that? Insignificant, because it's not a part of their time with us.

I recently read a book where I felt like the love interest was created for the sole purpose of giving the main character someone to hook up with. His past was alluded to, but never explored. He didn't have any identity outside of the context of the main character. He pretty much could have been substituted for anyone and it wouldn't have made that much difference.

I love when I'm reading a novel, and I get this sense of knowing the characters, their pasts, what led them to the point in this story, where I don't feel that the characters were just sitting around, only existing when the plot conveniently says they exist. I want them to feel like REAL people, ones that I could be friends with, fall in love with, or, in some cases, hate. Ones that I'll talk to my husband about and he'll ask me, "Wait, are you talking about real people or book people?" (To which I respond, "Does it matter?")

I love even more when I'm writing and a character's voice comes into my head, and I have to discover who she is and what made her that way. My story may only cover a few months in her life, but I love finding out what existed BEFORE that time that she came into my mind.

What makes a character real to you? What helps you connect to a character?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nerd vs. Dork vs. Geek

I went out to dinner last night with my husband and several of his co-workers (all electrical engineers) and my husband tells our dinner companions that he likes classifying everyone at work under three categories: Nerds, Dorks, Geeks. He then proceeded to inform everyone at the table where they fell. (He, of course, is the rare exception among engineers and claims that he does not fall under any of the three).

So, being engineers, they couldn't just leave it at that. They had to define what made a nerd vs. a dork vs. a geek.

Since the other popular topic at dinner that night was robots (I know, robots, but my husband had to go to a writers' award gala with me and listen to writing talk all night long, so it was only fair) so they decided to define nerds/dorks/geeks in terms of robots. Here was my interpretation of what they said:

Nerds would build a simulated robot.
Geeks would build an actual robot.
Dorks would dance like a robot.

I have always considered myself a nerd, so I didn't like this definition of nerd (because I had to ask my husband what a simulated robot even was) so I have to add that I think a nerd would READ about robots, too.

And even though robots are not my reading topic of choice, I will read about almost anything else, so I am a nerd.

Do you consider yourself a nerd, a dork, or a geek? (Or are you the "rare" exception like my husband seems to think he is?)

**Don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway for a chance to win in any book you want.

***If you get a chance, head over to Jolene Perry's blog and congratulate her! She's one of my favorite critique partners and has some awesome news.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Birthday Giveaway!!!

I am turning 28 on Sunday, and in addition to watching the casino shoot off fireworks and spending time with my family, I want to have a giveaway here to celebrate my birthday!

And since my absolute favorite gift to recieve is always a book I haven't read (which my family complains is hard to find), that's what I want to give away. I will draw one person and give them whatever book they are dying to read this summer.

The rules are simple:
1--Just make a comment below and tell me what YA book you really, really want to read.

2--Include your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

3--Be a follower of my blog.

Bonus--You can have additional entries if you tweet or blog about this (just let me know.)

That's it!

The contest will end Tuesday, July 5th at midnight.
I'll draw a winner a week from today, Wednesday July 6th.

**Thank you Chantele Sedgwick for this giveaway idea. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lovin' the Language Blogfest

I (barely) survived my girls camp experience this year. Turns out I prefer the mountains and sleeping in a tent, and yes, even outhouses, to being crammed with seven other people in a 12'x12' room. Once we worked through all the drama (would it be girls camp without drama?) and had our shower day, everything went a lot smoother. Also, I was so tired from staying up late the first few nights, that I discovered I can sleep through almost anything (noise, lights, laughing, talking, crying....)

Now I'm back just in time for Jolene's blog fest!

I love beautiful writing. Nothing can draw me into a story more than the ability to put words together in a way that just makes me sigh.

In the novel I just finished writing, FALLING, Brenna (my main character) goes to group therapy for siblings of people who have a traumatic brain injury. This is one of my favorite journal entries that she writes for therapy (we're only supposed to do five sentences, but I've been following rules all week, and feeling an itch to break one or two, so here you go):

I think about that last day a lot. The last day that Brian was normal and how we teased each other and were so comfortable and didn’t ever think that anything could change that. I remember closing my eyes and letting the air conditioner blow in my face, and pretending that I was climbing outside, wishing I had the courage to do it.
            But I was too afraid of falling—afraid that the anchor might give, that the ropes could unravel against the hard rock, that one mistake could cause me to plummet to the unforgiving ground. I didn’t realize then that there were other ways of falling, ways that were even longer, scarier than literally falling from a great height. Like falling in love with someone you didn’t even like before. Falling between the cracks in a family you thought you belonged to. Falling into a life you never wanted to live. Completely falling apart.
            Who knew all along I was afraid of the wrong kind of fall?
Brenna’s Sibling Support Journal

Can't wait to read what you have!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spending the week...

with teenagers at a church in New Mexico. I think I've mentioned before that I am the youth (girls) camp director for our local church unit and we were supposed to go camping up in the mountains for a week, but the entire Catalina Mountain range was closed due to fires. So there's this old church that does family reunions that we're going to sleep in (can I tell you how happy I am that we're going to have flushing toilets? See this post to really understand my complete joy.)

So, I am gearing up for a week of crafts, swimming, hiking, learning first aid, skits, firesides, archery, staying up late, and lots of inside jokes. And maybe even some ideas for my next book. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Documents Galore

While saving my writing yesterday, I noticed that I have a lot of documents for each book that I write. This wasn't a new revelation, since I save something to those folders almost everyday, but I started scrolling through my folders and just realized there were a ton. Maybe more than one person should have for one book (or maybe it's normal, IDK.)

I think my husband's engineering ways are starting to rub off on me, because I decided to add them all up and see how many saved documents I have for each of my finished books (stalling, anyone?) I stopped short of making a pie chart of the results even though I knew it would've made him proud.

For Meg's Melody:
48 documents

For Falling:
67 documents

Document titles include:
Alternate beginnings 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

Element of Blank (the original title) installments 1-7 (when I was sending sections to my mom as I wrote them—that way she’d keep asking for more, so I had to keep writing in a timely manner)

Queries 1-8

Synopsis 1 and 2

TBI outtakes (TBI=traumatic brain injury--from before I’d even titled the story)

TBI treatment, information, interviews

And all of the critiques that my crit partners have sent me. (More about their awesomeness later)

I need to know if there are others out there like me!
Do you have a a ton of documents saved for each book you write?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Throwing out a scene

Tossing a scene can be really, really hard. I know. I've tossed a ton of them.

With Meg's Melody, I have a deleted scenes folder that is as long as the book. Sometimes I cut scenes because they weren't adding Meg or Matt's emotional journey. Sometimes I needed to show a concept or growth or past about a character, but decided that the way I'd originally told it wasn't the best way. And some scenes, I had to cut because my publisher needed it to be a certain word count--so I looked for my weaker scenes.

Right now, I am in the final, final editing stages of my ms and there is one last scene I am tightening up. Last night I rewrote the scene, but decided that I didn't like my rewrite at all. It was an experiment that succeeded because I now know where I don't want to take that scene. So around midnight (since I'm just obsessive enough to not be able to sleep when I have a scene that needs finishing) I made a list of what I need to accomplish with my scene.

It looked like this: (picture scraggly handwriting since I wrote this in the dark before getting in bed)

1. Gabe=Tim (a replacement for the lighthearted/normal friendship she's been craving)
2. We learn more about Philip from Gabe--get inklings of Philip's past so "the past" revelation isn't so surprising
3.Give Brenna a fun, lighthearted night (she needs it)
4. Establish that Brenna and Philip are friends now--not just people that hang out because they have a connection to Brian
5. Hint at Philip's deeper feelings for Brenna (very slightly)

So, this list probably doesn't make sense without knowing who my characters are, but I wanted to give you a sense of how I edit. If a scene just isn't working for me, I make a list of what I'm trying to accomplish in that scene, and think about how to rewrite, bringing those ideas out even more--while conveying the tone I want for that section (in this case, everyone needs a break from all of the heavy stuff that's been going on in the book so far) in addition to making sure the main theme of the book is still being supported.

Then I save my original scenes in a folder called "deleted scenes" (original title, I know.) Always save those scenes. You might end up using parts of them somewhere.

How do you decide which scenes to cut and which to keep when you're editing?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jumping Back to High School

Not literally (although my ten year reunion is this year, so I will be back shortly) but I mean with my reading.

I read way many more young adult books now than I did when I was in high school. I read a ton, then, but it was always adult books that I stole off of my mom's bookshelf.

Recently, I had a conversation with a few friends about  books they read in high school, and of course the conversation turned to what we all had to read in out English classes. I realized that my English classes must have been reading some interesting things (AP, nuff said), so I hadn't read a lot of the "normal" classics that weren't touched in my college English courses (the many, many that I took.)

So my quest is to read all those classics from high school English that I never read while actually in high school. I just read A Tale of Two Cities for the first time (loved it, although a little wordy, but what did I expect with Dickens?) And now I'm reading 1984.

Did you read YA in high school?
What other classic suggestions do you have for me that you read in high school?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Contest with Gabriella Lessa

       Weronica Janczuk, an agent for Lynn C. Franklin is judging this contest. Go here for the details. We are all posting a love scene from our novels. Here is one of my favorites from my new ms, Falling.

Name: Kaylee Baldwin
Title: Falling
Genre: Contemporary YA
Entry word count: 726 words
Manuscript word cout: 75 K
Link #: 16

I'd love any feedback you have!

Scene:
     Philip’s whole house smelled comforting, like cinnamon and vanilla, wrapped in warmness and peace. I inhaled a deep breath of that feeling, wishing it could remain with me when I went back to my house, back to the loneliness so thick it reeked of mildew.
            Gabe sat on the couch and patted the seat next to him. Ricky jumped into the armchair I’d set my sights on, pulling the lever for the footrest before I could make my move, before I could even blink. I sighed and shuffled toward Gabe, sitting as far from him as I could without actually being on the other side of the couch.
            Philip had run off somewhere once he dropped his dish in the sink, and I pushed down disappointment that he wouldn’t be joining us.
            Lizzie popped the movie in and turned off the lights before lying down on the lush carpet in front of us. I sank further into the leather couch as she found the DVD menu and pushed play.
            “Thought you might still be cold,” Philip murmured in my ear as he sat down on the couch beside me. He draped a worn quilt across my legs, his arm and leg pressing against mine, making it hard for me to breath. I was much closer to him than I probably should’ve been, but I didn’t want Gabe to get the wrong idea if I scooted his way.
            I pulled the quilt up higher, trying to concentrate on the opening action sequence of the movie. Philip shifted, angling his body toward me just a little bit. The fresh shower scent I’d had a small taste of from his sweatshirt was so much better, stronger, with the real thing sitting beside me.
            “How do your hands feel?” Philip whispered close to my ear, his warm breath shooting tingles of awareness down my spine.
            “A little sore, but not too bad.” I smirked, knowing that his hands had to be worse off than mine. “How about you?”
            His shoulder shrugged against mine. “My hands got pretty tough building houses this summer. It’s actually my forearms that are killing me.”
            “Shhhhh.” Ricky turned to us with a stern expression.
            “Sorry,” I whispered. I pretended to be engrossed in the movie, even when Gabe’s gaze lingered on me and Philip before turning back to the show.
            After a few minutes, Philip’s hand brushed against mine where it rested on my leg under the quilt. He turned my palm face-up and ran his finger across the beginnings of new calluses. I knew he had to have felt, or heard, my breathing hitch as he continued to trace the lines in my palm and fingers.
            “It’s hard to believe that these little hands could pull you up so quick,” he breathed against my ear, before entwining my small, cold fingers between his large, warm ones. His thumb continued to dance patterns on the top of my hand, causing my blood to rush so fast through my body that I couldn’t have paid any attention to the movie if my life had depended on it.
            Suddenly, Gabe scooted closer to me and slipped his arm around my shoulder. Philip raised an eyebrow, his hand squeezing mine once more before letting go. The room seemed to come back into focus for me again, the sound of squealing cars in the movie, of Philip shifting away from me, of Gabe breathing too close to my ear. What was I doing? I was on a date with Gabe and holding hands with Philip? And hating that he had to let me go?
            I was possibly one of the worst people in the world at that moment. Philip was Brian’s boring friend. And my friend too, but only a friend. I needed to remember this. But, really, he wasn’t so boring, as I’d found out that morning. And maybe his flirting wasn’t horrible all of the time. I forced myself to stop thinking about that, stiffening when Gabe began to tickle the little hairs at the back of my neck. Philip must have noticed because he folded his arms and leaned even further away.
            We’re just friends. We’re just friends. I chanted it over and over in my mind, but all I could think about was how good it felt when Philip touched me so softly.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I heart my Kindle

Why?

New reason #1-- Maybe I'm seriously behind the times here, but did you know that you can loan out books on your Kindle? I went to the Manage My Kindle page to clean up my library and noticed the "Loan this book" tab. Not all books are available for loan, but most of mine were. And one of my best friends just got a Kindle for her B-day, so now we can loan our books to each other instead of me just giving her my Kindle for a week (I really trust this girl, but missed my Kindle when she had it)

New reason #2--I went to Net Galleys (check this site out if you review books, it is awesome) yesterday to get an arc of a book I was asked to review, and they sent it right to my Kindle. And it turned out to be an awesome book that I stayed up past midnight to finish. I'll be a part of a blog tour in about a month, so look for my review.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

No Patience

My computer is driving me INSANE!!!!
It is taking forever to load pages, open files, search on google, get into blogger. And forget trying to comment on people's blogs.

Then last night--Word froze up on me, and of course I hadn't saved in an hour, and I lost a lot of what I'd written. Without auto recovery, my computer would probably be in a very sad place right now.

I can feel my heart-rate skyrocketing to unhealthy proportions this afternoon waiting for my computer to load things, so I decided to time myself and see how long I could go wait for page to load without getting antsy.

Five seconds.

After that, I could barely go another five seconds (so ten seconds total of waiting for a page to load) before giving up and exiting out completely. Sad, but true.

Now to begin the campaign to convince the hubs that a new computer is a necessity.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How I find time to write

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how I find time to write with my three kids and church stuff I usually have going on. Sometimes I stay up really late, get a babysitter for a few hours, convince my husband to play Mr. Mom on the weekends, but those things don't happen very often. Instead, I have to find little chunks of time throughout my week, which means giving up something else that used to fill that time.

A few things I’ve had to give up so I have time to write...

  1. Television.*
  2. Folding Laundry. Really, why does it need to be folded, if we are just going to wear it within a couple of days anyway?
  3. Scrapbooking. Thank goodness for digital albums, or else my kids pics would still be on a roll of film in a box somewhere, I’m sure.
  4. Most of my hobbies. I have been working on an afghan for two years, I have two quilt tops done that need batting and backing and tying, and a Welcome Bear I’ve been painting outfits to go with each month—still have a few outfits left to paint. I work on a little bit every time I get a chance, but at this rate, it’s going to be another couple of years before I’m finished with any of them.**
  5. Exercising at the gym. I go for a walk every morning to get out of the house and see my friends/walking buddies, but I’ve given up going to the gym I’m already paying for with my HOA fees. The only time I could get down there without kids is in the evening and that is prime writing time.
  6. Naps.
 *Except for Bachelor/ette because everyone needs some veg time in the week
**Since I only work on these things while I'm watching Bachelor/ette--heaven forbid I just sit and relax. :)

The next question... Is it worth it? YES!

Are there things you've had to give up in order to find time to write?

Monday, June 6, 2011

When we want to quit

For Memorial Day some friends of ours went with me and my husband on a 5K Mud Run (er, walk). And what a reality check this 5K mud run/walk really was for me. I go walking almost three miles everyday--pushing my two kids (30lbs each) in a double stroller--so I thought it would be no problem.

Wrong.

After standing in the relentless AZ heat for almost an hour just waiting for our start time, I was a little dehydrated. But still totally pumped. We finally got in line for our turn, counted down from ten, and we were off to a great start.

Until about 100 meters in, I got a side ache. I mean, come on! I knew it was going to be a loooong race after that. (In my defense, I had told my team that I was going to be the weak link. I think they thought I was exaggerating. I was not.)

But, I pushed on, mostly because I was trying to impress my husband--yes, married almost seven years, still trying to trick him into believing that I'm semi-athletic (failing miserably, by the way). All of a sudden everyone was running toward us, yelling that we were all going the wrong way. So we had to turn around, run the quarterish mile to get back on course, then continued. At this point, it turned into a mud walk for me, my pride going out the window when I realized my breakfast was going to be apart of the obstacles for the runners behind me if I kept pushing myself. I even considered stopping, because so far, this mud run? Not so much MUD as endless dirt and thorny shrubs (that I brushed against and got thorns in my legs. Fun times)

About a mile in, we had a water station, then a hose down, then a bouncy house slip and slide, then another water station. And I was a new woman. I could actually jog after getting wet and having some much needed water. They should have had some of those things in the first mile, instead of just having us run in dry dirt in the hot sun, nothing to break it up.

So, as usual, this made me think about my writing. I started out strong in this race, lost momentum when we went the wrong way, got discouraged when it was the same thing over and over for the first mile, and even thought about giving up. But I kept pushing myself forward (mostly because of pride, kind of because I'd paid a lot of money to torture myself like this) and once I got hydrated, ended up having so much fun that I'm going to do it again in September.

Like with our writing, sometimes we lose momentum, hate our beginnings, don't know where we're going, don't know why we're even torturing ourselves like this anyway--no one is making us write and submit and get rejected over and over again--but then you get to that point where it is just fun. Maybe you have to slow down a bit to make it enjoyable again, or maybe you have to just go crazy with your plot and characters and remember that above all, writing is supposed to be FUN or enjoyable or fulfilling. That the more we write, the better we get at it, and when we take a wrong turn, it's not the end of the world, we just have to get back on track.

The point? Don't quit!! Keep pushing yourself forward, remembering why you're writing in the first place, and have fun with it again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What is scarier than submitting to an agent?

Having teenagers read the skit you wrote for them to perform at church camp.

Not kidding. I am the girls camp director for my ward and part of my duty is to get a 8-10 minute skit for them to act out on skit night. So instead of googling a previously written skit, I got an idea that I really liked, so I wrote the skit for them. I loved the finished product, but when it came time for me to print out copies of it to give to the girls for practice, I started freaking out a little.

What if they don't like it?
What if they mock it?
What if they don't want to do it?

Since I only had minutes to print out the skit and get to my meeting, I didn't have time to back out at this point, and just took what I had. I gave it to the girls and told them that they could ad lib in any [appropriate] way that they wanted (this is church camp, after all). And the result? Hilarious. These girls are so funny and fun and positive, and they were awesome in the skit. Sure, it's not the rap we did last year, but we've gotta mix things up now and then (although, one of the girls--the villain--did say her lines as a rap and it was perfect.)

I think it's scarier having people I know read something I've written than having complete strangers read it. If strangers reject me, whatev. Yes, I'm bummed when I get rejected, but I never have to see the rejecter. So I get rejected once and move on. With people I know, I have to see them at church, the pool, the grocery store, our kids' schools, always remembering....
How do you feel about sharing your writing with people you know?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Clean

No, not my manuscript.

My house.

I've also made two new recipes this week, organized my kids' toys, did window treatments in my son's room, and folded insane amounts of laundry this week.

I get really motivated to be productive around the house when I have edits I should be doing. Suddenly the dishes don't seem so bad when the alternative is ripping apart my manuscript, the carefully piecing it back together.

I used to do this in school. My family always knew when I had a paper due, because suddenly my house was cleaner than ever. It's the only time cleaning is actually the happier alternative to anything else.

Okay, now I've updated my blog. I should probably stop stalling and get to work.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Twitterfied

I've entered the land of Twitter, and I'm not too proud to admit I'm a little lost. I can handle the whole update thing, the hashtag thing is still a little confusing, and if there is anything else Twitter does, I have yet to unlock those secrets.

Look me up at: kayleebaldwin1 and join me as I stumble past my comfort zone into new social technology. (I know I'm in my 20s and this technology stuff should come natural to me, but should and does are two different things.)

Coming up... My report on the Storymakers conference (loved it!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

You I Mist!

I think I've mentioned before that my oldest son has Down Syndrome and he has several health problems that go along with this. Because of some recent surgeries he's had, he's missed school and church for over a month. His classes in each made him a book of notes (without knowing that the others were making them) and I received both of them this week.

I wish my scanner wasn't such a pain so that I could scan in the cute little drawings, but what really got to me were the notes that these five and six year olds wrote to my son. He can't understand most of the words but I do. I read through every note and looked at every picture.

The power of a few words is incredible. Some notes say: We love you. You are very strong. You are fun. You are the best. I missed you for a long time. I wish you were not sick. And about 25 more messages for my son.

Then I got to the one that somehow got to me the most.

You I Mist.

Three words. Not spelled correctly. Not good sentence structure. But jam-packed with emotion.

And in those three words, my heart went out to this class who has learned this year that kids their age can get sick and need surgeries and struggle to talk and walk and eat and be like them. And still, they love my son for who he is.

This is part of writing. Finding these emotions and these words with powerful meanings and the people behind the words, and connecting. Connecting in a way that makes a 27 year old mother of a special little boy cry. Connecting in a way that draws us in and makes us feel something. Connecting in a way that reminds us that despite all of our differences, we can still come together through the power of a few words.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Must Have For Writers

I am deep into revisions for my YA novel, and it is undergoing a major rewrite right now. I am taking out a main character, which means that the last 100 pages have to be completely rewritten. Why am I doing this? Because I am the queen of tangents and I think this plot twist I added at the end may actually be a monster-type plot tangent that took on a life of it's own and overtook the last part of my book. I love it, but I am doing an experiment to see what would happen to the story if I took him out. We'll see. I did it with Meg's Melody, and I liked the result, so that's the version I turned into CFI, and we know how that turned out.

So while I'm doing this revision, I decided to pull out my trusty writing book, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. I love this book. It is seriously a must have. I borrowed it from a friend in my critique group about a year and a half ago when I was doing revisions for Meg's Melody and liked it so much that I had to get a copy for myself. Right now I'm evaluating my character arcs for my three main characters of my YA novel (which is undergoing a title revision, as well.)

I also love Ann Lamott's Bird by Bird and Orson Card's Character and Viewpoint. What other good writing books are  must haves?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Crazy Daze of Motherhood Review and Prize

From Back Cover:
A mother's day is filled with all kinds of emergencies, from bumps and bruises to hospital stays. Find the perfect way to recover from your own family's little emergencies with Jane Isfeld Still's latest book on the hilarious daily challenges of a mother in the fray. You're sure to laugh and cry as you celebrate the joys of motherhood.

My Review:
If you are looking for a great Mother's Day gift, here you go. I loved this book. I sat down the day I got it and read it in one sitting. I was laughing so hard at times that my husband kept shooting me glances from where he was working on the computer, so I'd have to read sections out loud to him. Her stories are so relatable. Most of us will be able to connect with at least one of her experiences--whether it's cooking mishaps, plumbing mishaps, or children mishaps. Jane looks at motherhood in a very positive and humorous way, and makes you realize that even when everything seems to be going wrong, there is always something to laugh about.

To read more about Jane and her exploits visit her website at janeisfeldstill.com or her blog at janeisfeldstill.blogspot.com. (Seriously, her blog is just as funny as the book. If you want to check out her writing style, go visit her blog.)

A Prize:
You can win a fun prize from Jane to help celebrate the release of her book.  Just go to her blog at http://www.janeisfeldstill.blogspot.com/ and become a follower, and then leave her a comment and tell her that you're a new follower.  You could win:
1. Mother's Daze basket, soap, chocolate, lotion, decorative candles, and recipe cards
2. Box of blank cards with a smattering of Canadian chocolate
3. Chocolate

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Too Many Good Books

A few nights ago at book club we got to talking about good books that we've read. Someone mentioned the book Rebecca, and when I said that I hadn't read that one, she told me that I would probably love it. Luckily for me, I already own that book.

So my sis-in-law turns to me and says, "How many books do you own that you haven't read?" I laughed and didn't really need to answer because she knows me well enough to already know that I own a lot of books I haven't read yet. But I will. Eventually.

Here's my problem (well, I don't really think it's a problem, but my husband might argue that point): There are too many good books out there, and I want to read them all. So if I'm at the bookstore and I see a book that's been on my tbr list for a while, I snatch it. If I see a book that's a really good deal, I find a place for it on my shelf. If I see a book that just has a really awesome cover, I'm totally suckered in and I buy it.

Then they sit on the shelf until I can finally get to them. I have an entire shelf devoted to books that I haven't read yet, but it just keeps growing because I give precedence to the books I check out from the library since those ones actually have due dates.

I won't even get into the unread books on my Kindle.

It's my goal, though, to start working through my shelf. I pulled Rebecca off of it today and set it on my night table (below the five other books already there) so that it is in the queue. Thing is, I know me. Next time I'm in the bookstore, I'm not going to be able to resist buying something to add to my shelf in hopes that someday, eventually I'll find the time to read it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm Back!

This is what I've been doing instead of blogging the past couple of weeks.

Just to clarify, I'm running from the alligators. Not cheering for them.

Spending time with a good friend at the swamp. I think she's torturing me/helping me overcome my fears here.

I can't tell you how proud I am of myself for actually holding that thing. I told my four year old that I ate alligator, and he saw this picture, and how he thinks that I just leaned down and bit the head off of that thing. Such a nice mental image of my son to have of his mom!

This is as close as I would get. My heart was pounding like crazy. I like all of my limbs and did not want to lose any of them.
I just had to add this picture for contrast with mine.
This is my good friend (who was not afraid to touch the alligator)
and one of my first readers for my manuscripts.
So, the reason why I haven't been blogging...

I was in Louisiana! My wonderful husband got me plane tickets for Christmas to go visit my old roommate from BYU. These pictures are all from the swamp tour that my friend and I went on one of the days we were there. Don't be surprised if a little jaunt into New Orleans happens in my next book.

And can I tell you how much I love airplanes? Not so much the airport, or being really high above everything (or the fact that after I told my four year old I was going on a plane he said, "Oh, no. That's bad. Planes go really, really high... then they CRASH!" This was complete with hand motions and sound effects.) What I love is meeting new people. I love talking to people on airplanes and finding out about their lives. And these people are stuck next to me for hours, so they have to talk to me at some point, right? I met some great, great people--some who might wind up with cameos in a book in the future. So much fun.

Sickness has hit the Baldwin house with a vengeance as well. I guess that's just how it is with little kids. They bring everything home from school.

Then today, amidst all of the throw up and crying and messy house, I got this in the mail:
Not the Kindle version, of course, but this was the best picture I could find. I won this on this blog a few weeks ago, and I am really excited to read it. I'll let you know what I think.

I love getting books in the mail. It is probably my favorite kind of package to get.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My First Book Signing

I am doing my very first book signing at a bookstore tomorrow morning at LatterDay Cottage in Tucson. I'm actually feeling a little nervous about the whole thing, so if you are in the area, stop by and say hi! There are going to be some great people there.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Agent contest

Just wanted to tell you about an agent contest that YAtopia is hosting. Go here to check out the details.

Good luck!!

Growing Up Gracie Review

From the back cover:

As the fifth of six kids, it's sometimes hard for Gracie Fremont to see what makes her special. But with the help of friends, family, and her faith, Gracie discovers that even the most ordinary girl can do extraordinary things. Told with sweetness, humor, and heart, this unique coming-of-age story will resonate with readers of all ages

My review:

I sat down to read a few chapters of Growing Up Gracie a couple of nights ago, and ended up reading the entire book in one sitting. I loved this novel. I thought that Fechner did a wonderful job with the characterization of Gracie, illustrating how she grows throughout her growing up years.

The book begins when Gracie is five years old and goes through her life until early adulthood (mid-twenties). In that time, you really get to know Gracie, her friends, and her family, and watch Gracie as she tries to find her place in this world.

Highly recommended.

Go here to check out Maggie's blog.
Go here to read my interview with Maggie.

Interview with Maggie Fechner

I had the chance to interview Maggie Fechner, author of the novel Growing Up Gracie.

Kaylee: Tell us a little bit about yourself.


Maggie: Here's me in a salted nut shell (salted because I'm dieting right now, and this is my daily protein snack of choice).

I'm a wife of 9 years to my best friend. I am a mother of 7 years to four kiddos who stress me to the tips of my toes and bring me joy to the depths of my heart. I am a portrait photographer. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am a writer. And now, since November, I get to say I'm an author. Yay!

How long have you been writing?

I was just thinking, is it too cliche to answer, since I was a child? It's true. I've been writing since a very young age. However, that's what every author says, so I think it might be kind of neat to answer something like "I've never written a sentence in my life. Page one of my NYT Bestseller were the first words I've ever written." Yeah, right.

Seriously though, I've been doing it forever. Editor of the newspaper. BA in journalism. Worked as a reporter. Blah, blah, cliche, cliche. :)

Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

I'm not a huge outliner. I just write fast with no looking back and then have major revisions when I finally look over the jumbled mess.

I know you have four little kids, and I'm sure you have other obligations as well. When do you find time to write?

I write from 5-6:30 in the morning on Monday through Friday. Then if I can throughout the day I try to steal little snatches of time here and there for marketing and blog hopping and things like that. When a book is out with my first readers I take a break from writing and don't hop straight into the next project. Yes, it might be lazy, but let me tell you, sleeping in until 7 feels like heaven!

Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

I wrote Growing Up Gracie fairly quickly when I was a new mother and had an infant who was a great sleeper. I remember my parents and husband taking me out to dinner one night to celebrate that I had finished writing my book. I then proceeded to put the manuscript away and not touch it for about five years. When I dragged it out again I read it and was appalled at the horrible writing I had once celebrated! I began editing and editing and editing and editing. I probably did three complete rewrites before giving the book to my first readers. Then I edited some more and more and more. Finally I submitted it and was informed on my 30th birthday that Cedar Fort wanted to offer me a contract.

What is your favorite book? Favorite genre?

I just read The Secret Garden for the first time and absolutely loved it. I also love Alicia: My Story. My favorite genre is not paranormal YA. Can you believe it? Is anyone's favorite genre not YA these days? No, seriously, my favorite books are set in America before 1960. If that genre has a name, I don't know it. I was informed to be a truly "historical" piece, it must be set before the 1900s, and so I guess it's not that... Hmmm. Let's just say this. I love olden-times books, but not super olden-times books. And I definitely don't need a happy ending to be satisfied with a book.

Do you have any advice for those trying to get published?

I don't quite feel "old" enough in this business to offer advice. But if there was anything I wish I'd known before I delved in, it would be this: your first, or second, or even third novel doesn't have to be the first one you have published. It's okay to write just for the sake of improving your craft.

I'm so grateful Growing Up Gracie is out there and is being received so well. This journey has been so full of excitement and amazing support. I feel that my knowledge has grown in leaps and bounds, and I've still only scratched the surface. I hope that my debut is a great jumping-off point to a long and rewarding life as a writer.

Thanks, Maggie. It was great getting to know more about you.

Thanks, Kaylee.

Go here to read my review of Growing Up Gracie.