Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Best Middle Grade Books I've Read ...

I read a lot of books to my boys. And though they are only seven and a half, they have long since passed the Magic Tree House series. About a year ago Xan picked up his first Deltora Quest book by Emily Rodda. We all really enjoyed it. Charlie continued to prefer Magic Tree House so I would alternate between a Deltora Quest book and a MTH book. Reading them out loud I much preferred the DQ books because they were so well written. Easy to read, the story flows, the dialogue is natural and the descriptions are excellent.

We are now on our fourth Deltora Quest. The story is only getting better and better and even my reluctant reader, Charlie, begs for more every night. These are truly excellent books with stellar writing; I highly recommend them.

I'm also enjoy reading them as a writer who is always interested in learning more. I am so impressed with how Rodda manages to keep her books succinct and in tune with her audience while never talking down to them, and never short changing the showing of the story. Her stories are vivid and alive, both for the boys and for me. I hope I can manage to take what I am learning from reading her stories to my own books one day; I could certainly do far worse than emulating one who is truly succeeding, to my mind, in telling exciting colorful adventures that even the most reluctant readers enjoy.

Thank you Emily Rodda!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tristi, Bring it ON! MY American Idol pick ...

Tristi has her own little thing going on with Rob Wells but I felt strongly enough about this one that I thought it was time to join in the fray.

Forget Michael Johns. Phht.

Forget David A. Whatever.

My vote? David Cook. Oh yeah.

My top picks for this year are: David, Carly Smithson, David A. and Brooke White.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Day

Today was a neat day in more ways than one.

I got to spend some time with my husband in the children which we rarely seem to be able to do these days. Then I went back to the LDStorymakers conference for a while. I enjoyed meeting up again with Ilene, a great woman I met yesterday and I think is going to be a friend to me in the future. We're going to get a critique group going, so if you're interested and you live in the Salt Lake Valley, let us know! (We would really like to find Elana who we met in line and 'felt right' to both Ilene and I. So if you know Elana - who placed with a first chapter, yay! - tell her we're looking for her!)

I also got to meet Stephanie Humphreys today! I also wanted to meet Christine from AI and Shanna - my good IF (internet friend) - but no luck. Stephanie is just as pretty in person as the beautiful sketch on her blog depicts.

Because I was sitting with Stephanie a wonderful, and not accidental, thing happened. I got to sit with other Canadians, among them was Rob Ficiur. Rob says he lived in Foremost when Stephanie told him that my hubby was from there. Rob then says that he needs to call 'this man' and shows me a note on which he has written "Joe Cross" and a phone number. I said, "That's my husband's dad!"

Rob then proceeded to tell me a little (it was hard to talk) about his experience with Joe and what a blessing Joe was to him and his family. He offered to email me with some excerpts from the book he is currently writing in which Joe is featured. He also gave me a copy of his book "Trouble in Palmyra"

I have actually had an interest in this book in the past when it on the shelves and now, having a glimpse into the heart of this man, I am very excited to read it. I think my boys will love it too.

OK, great news! I entered my first chapter of The Devil's Daughter into the conference's contest and guess what? - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I embarrassed myself when I whooped out loud when I heard I had won. Oh well, what can I say? I was excited and happy! Yay for me! But goodness, I have GOT to have my name changed legally because I'm so sick of having an alias! For some dumb reason (I thought I should) I entered the contest under my real name, Sandra, so no one knew who I was! Argh! Anyway, I'm super dee duperty excited to have won. Obviously.

OK, a few more things ... We had a little easter egg hunt for the boys tonight and that was sweet and fun. We were able to hide the eggs in much more challenging places this time which made it more fun for all of us. Then David took us out for dinner to celebrate my 'big win', lol, to Texas Roadhouse (our favorite place). While there, I was telling about the things I learned and the ideas I had while listening to James Dashner and Jeff Savage teach on strengthening your story. Together, all four of us kicked around ideas and holy cow you guys my Jump Boys story is going to TOTALLY ROCK now! It was okay-ish before (some who've read it might say not so much) but now? Watch out!! It's going to kick butt. With the ideas of my family - and can I say how awesome it was to play the "what if?" game with my seven year old boys? way fun - I've found a way to make not only my current antagonist a lot stronger but to add a really bad bad guy into the mix and how to create an almost insurmountable challenge for the boys thereby jacking up the tension and suspense by oh, about 100 %!

Now ... to put into practice the things I learned from Rachel Ann Nunes about finding time to write ...

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Pitch with Lisa Mangum and an Update

Today was the first day of the LDStorymakers conference. I enjoyed boot camp, a couple workshops and ... a pitch session with Deseret Book editor Lisa Mangum.

I really enjoyed the workshops I attended today and my pitch session with Lisa. I learned about truly becoming a writer from Rachel Anne Nunes; about how to make writing a priority, setting goals and how to truly reach my dreams. I also took a class from Heather Moore and Julie Wright about building our first novel. Their presentation was interesting but I think I was hoping for a more meaty class, where instead we got the bones. Guess we need to put the meat on ourselves? Still, it was worthwhile.

And Julie met me in the hall and gave me a hug! I was so shocked by that, but so, so touched. Time and again she surprises me with her kindness and friendliness. Oftentimes nowadays people just aren't that friendly, they don't go out of their way to be kind, they don't step outside of themselves to cheer another. But Julie continues to do that for me and today with the hug, well, she made me feel loved. Thank you Julie!

OK, so the pitch. I was very pleased to discover that Lisa was very approachable and friendly. She has a great smile too. I don't know why, but I was expecting someone a lot more reserved and removed. I was happy to find her instead to be quite approachable and fun.

I pitched The Devil's Daughter and she received it well. She claimed to really like the idea and asked that I submit the first three chapters along with an additional chapter or two showing Desi's (the main character) moment of truth so to speak - the moment when she discovers the truth of her identity. She seemed to suggest that there may be a place for my book at ShadowMountain, but did express concern over the whole devil's daughter thing. That's why she needs to see the middle part of the book where Heavenly Father makes His presence known and Desi begins to see the truth in things. I have to trust that Lisa is far too busy to invite several chapters into her life unless she is sincerely interested in reading them. So ... I guess I choose to believe that the pitch was a success and, well ... yay!

And now for my update. I'll keep it brief because I've already written a lot here. Basically, Mom is still hanging on and it's hard. Hard on everyone who is waiting to say goodbye, hard on Mom and the continued pain and suffering. David has been spending every moment he can over at his parent's house. He has been wonderful to his Mom, and to me. This has been an extremely difficult time for him, and yet he is being sweet and thoughtful of me and my needs. I hope I have been equally kind in return, but I don't know.

We are praying for Mom's release from the bonds of this life. She needs to go, she needs to free.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


We spent the afternoon, visiting with David's mom. She had her daughter Dianna call us this morning to let us know that Mom needed us to come by to say our goodbyes. She is walking in the narrow strip of land where the veil normally resides, partly in this world, partly in the other world. She is finding it harder and harder to come back to us, the pull from the other side is getting harder to resist. It's time.

Xander had a karate tournament this afternoon, which he did very well at. He won both his events! He was proud to show Grandma his medals, and she told him what a special boy he is - not just at karate, but at life. She told him she knows he's a good boy, and she's so proud of him.

I am proud of both my boys. Going to see a sick and dying old woman in a tiny house where you can't make a lot of noise and there's nothing really fun to do, can't be a whole lot of fun. I know I never really enjoyed that sort of thing. But my guys both say "Yes!" when we tell them we're going to see Grandma. Last night Charlie said he wished he could give his life for Grandma, so she could live. What a big heart that boy has.

Today they hugged their Grandma, and listened to her words of advice. She told them about death and what it would mean. She told them she was going to be with her mom and dad, and how happy that made her. One day, she said, we would all be together again. She encouraged them to make good choices so that she could see them again one day. She especially gave her attention to Charlie, who stood for several long moments while Grandma spoke to him and she stroked his face. Sweet boy cried when he said goodbye to his Grandma.

We had planned to leave the boys with friends tomorrow while we spend the day with the family, but Mom requested that we bring the boys with us. I was surprised by that, but she was insistent. I think we had our goodbyes today, we'll go tomorrow to be a family, to be united in showing our love and support of our Mother, Mother-in-Law, our Grandma. Should Mom leave us tomorrow, I hope she can go with a house full of family, hearing the laughter, the joy in love shared.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Mea Culpa

My friends, please forgive me! I appreciate those of you who have been still stopping by - but mostly I hope you've got me on your blogroll and haven't been wasting your time checking on me!

I have been surviving this working thing, my family too, but I've had precious little time for the things I enjoy - like writing and reading. But because you're my friends, and for some reason unbeknownst to me, you like to read my blog (you gotta be crazy, but I love ya for it!) so for you I'm going to make a promise:

I here by swear that I will write two new blogs a week.

There, I said it. And by golly, if I said it, you can count on it to be true! At least, until I un-say it!

OK, so umm, where to start? Work is going fine. I think I may like it. YAY! I have yet to actually start the job though as I am still in training. The boys are doing just fine with the new routine. We had some blips to work through the first couple weeks, but I think we are finally getting the hang of it all. David, however, is another story! He says to me: "I just want you to be home!" He's having a hard time being a work-at-home Dad when there's no stay-at-home Mom!

We had the boys' parent-teacher conferences last week. Gosh, I love the boys' teacher! Jackie Warner is the most awesome teacher, I wish we could take her with us through all the grades. I especially love how much she cares for my Charlie. I imagine Charlie can be a hard one to love because he's wacky and silly and doesn't care a whole lot for school. But Mrs. Warner is able to see through all that and not let it bug her - she sees the good in Charlie and I love her for it. Funny though, I think perhaps she doesn't care for Xan too much! It doesn't bother me, I just think it's funny because usually it's the other way around. Next year I don't plan to keep the boys together in the same class, so it will be interesting to see how things pan out for them.

Next week, Xan is competing in a mini tournament with the karate studio. Charlie has decided he does not want to participate. I can't wait to get back to karate myself! Me and David miss it a lot, but for now can't afford it. Soon though, we hope. Then the week after is the LDStorymakers Conference and I can't wait! I'm excited to go to boot camp especially.

OK, that's all the news I've got for ya tonight. Like I said though, I'll be back! BEFORE next Saturday too. Count on it!