Thursday, April 29, 2010

Something Different

In a recent interview, I was asked about what I listen to while I am writing. Believe it or not, this was sort of a tough question to answer. As in most aspects of my writing life, I can be a bit flaky about what music I tune into while in creative mode. Yes, I said it—flaky. I cater to my moods. I might listen to music, but then again, maybe not. One thing is a constant, though: I love, love, love, to write with the windows open. Especially if there are birds chirping and carrying on outside. Okay, I don’t mean to sound like Snow White, but there is just something about the tweeting and twittering as well as other outdoor sounds that is somehow comforting, inspiring, and motivating. Kind of different, but still musical.

For better or for worse, this eccentricity has resulted in yours truly crowding the back porch of our house with bird feeders in a variety of shapes and sizes. Which has resulted in certain family members commenting rather frequently that my birdie welfare programs are getting a bit out of hand. Some folks seem to think that the bug population might exceed reasonable limits since no bird in his or her right mind would waste time on grubs given the banquet laid out on our porch. Apparently, I’m not taking these comments all that seriously, though, because I’ve just put out a new treat--something different. It’s easy and kind of fun to make. I’m talking about a birdseed wreath (pictured), people. If you enjoy the flutter of wings, the birdie spats, the tweets that come from nature (as compared to Twitter), why not give this wreath a try? Here’s how to make this unique birdfeeder:

In a large bowl, combine three, ¼ ounce envelopes of gelatin with 6 tablespoons of cold water. Let this mixture stand for 1 minute.

Add 1 cup of boiling water. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Gradually add 6 cups of birdseed to the gelatin mixture, stirring to combine.

Spray the inside of a Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Pour the birdseed mixture into the pan, pressing the seed down firmly as you fill.

Place the pan in the refrigerator for several hours or until it is set.

Remove the wreath from the pan and tie several lengths of twine around it.

Now you are ready to suspend the wreath, perhaps from a tree branch.

Easy, right? If you try this, let me know how it works out. I could use the support around here. : )

Have fun!

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to What???

While doing research for a writing project this past weekend, I stumbled upon a hilarious article that I thought I’d share--an article on how-to kiss. Okay, maybe I was punchy. It was a rainy day and I’d been working for a lot of it. Or, maybe I’m twelve, but this article cracked me up. Anyway, here are some highlights:

Exfoliate your lips with sugar to make them smooth and sweet. Count me in on this one! This beats shoving an entire cupcake into one’s mouth when in need of a sweetness fix.

“Look inviting and approachable.” Well, that’s sort of hard to argue with, isn’t it? And, um, kind of obvious, no?

“Make eye contact and then move your gaze briefly down to the person's lips. Then move your eyes back up to meet theirs and smile demurely. You don't have to be really obvious about it. Many people will take the hint, especially if they've read one of the many articles that lists this as a sign that a person wants to kiss or be kissed.” Read one of the articles? What? Okay, someone break the news to me, please: Was I supposed to read articles on this kissing business before breaking into it? Gulp.

If you ‘overpucker’ your lips will become tense, which is better for the platonic peck, not for romance.” Isn’t this called over thinking something? I’m just asking.

The article goes on and on, getting into details and linking to articles such as how to kiss with braces, how to deal with bad kissers, and how to air kiss (how to air kiss?). And what kissing article would be complete without the proper warning: “Be aware that kissing (especially deep kissing) may transmit infectious diseases, such as herpes or infectious mononucleosis.” Okay, yes, but that’s just icky, especially after having just gone to the effort of exfoliating with sugar.

For those of you brave enough or curious enough to want more of this, here’s the link: Beware, though: There is a video. I have not checked it out, so I can’t comment, but I can imagine. You’ve been warned.

Where was the internet when I was uncertain about whether I’d need such step-by-step instructions on how to lip lock?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How About a Poem?

While going through one of my bookshelves the other day (one of my favorite forms of procrastination, by the way), I came upon one of my most treasured books of poetry: Poems of Childhood by Eugene Field, with illustrations by Maxfield Parrish. If you have never encountered this book, I am officially recommending it. Here is a sample poem:

The Dinkey-Bird

In an ocean, ‘way out yonder

(As all sapient people know),

Is the land of Wonder-Wander,

Whither children love to go;

It’s their playing, romping, swinging,

That give great joy to me

While the Dinkey-Bird goes singing

In the amfalula tree!

There the gum-drops grow like cherries,

And taffy’s think as peas—

Caramels you pick like berries

When, and where, and how you please;

Big red sugar-plums are clinging

To the cliffs beside the sea

Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing

In the amfalula tree.

So when children shout and scamper

And make merry all the day,

Where there’s naught to put a damper

To the ardor of their play;

When I hear their laughter ringing,

Then I’m sure as sure can be

That the Dinkey-Bird is singing

In the amfalula tree.

For the Dinkey-Bird bravuras

And staccatos are so sweet—

He roulades, appoggiaturas,

And robustos so complete,

That the youth of every nation—

Be they near or far away—

Have especial delectation

In that gladsome roundelay.

Their eyes grow bright and brighter

Their lungs begin to crow,

Their hearts get light and lighter,

And their cheeks are all aglow;

For an echo cometh bringing

The news to all and me,

That the Dinkey-Bird is singing

In the amfalula tree.

I’m sure you like to go there

To see your feathered friend—

And so many goodies grow there

You would like to comprehend!

Speed, little dreams, your winging

To that land across the sea

Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing

In the amfalula tree!

~ Eugene Field

I hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Goodies and Give-Aways

I’m going to begin with a flat out confession (don't worry, this sounds much more dramatic than it is): I’m not sure which goodies make the best give-away treats for the wonderful readers that I get the opportunity to meet and speak with. I’d love to find the perfect gesture of appreciation (no, not bribery) for those who show interest in my books, but sometimes this is easier said than done. Bookmarks, of course, are fabulous, but most authors give these out. Wouldn’t it be great to do something different?

Imagine that you are at an event with an author. And this author has goodies that promote his or her novels. What trinkets or do-dads are most appealing to you and, therefore, remind you of the author’s books? Here are some examples, in alphabetical order, of things that I’ve given away at events or know that other authors have had available:


CDs (with a recording of part of the book being read aloud)



crossword puzzles (the novel has to be read in order to fill in the blank spaces)

key chains with novel title or cover art

magnets of novel book jacket

notepads with images and/or titles of novels

pens and/or pencils with novel title etched in the plastic or wood

postcards with cover art on the front and a book description on the back

posters of books

self-stick notes with novel title and/or cover image

stickers of novel book jacket

T-shirts with novel art and title, perhaps a blurb from the book

Have I missed any great ideas? I’d love to know what you would most like to pick up at an author event. I think that I’d most like pens or pencils or notepads. But maybe that’s just me. At most of my school visits, the students have been excited about the book cover stickers. At a recent bookstore event for educators, the teachers loved the self-stick notes with the Dog Gone and the Buck Fever cover art.

What would you like best?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I thought I’d blog about antagonists today. Whether you are a writer, a reader, or you drive a Good Humor ice cream truck, someone somewhere is going to be opposed to you. Someone somewhere is not going to like what you are doing or, for reasons undefined, who you are or aspire to be. Opponents and adversaries are a part of our lives. Kind of like splinters and bug bites. Today, tax deadline day, some might think of Uncle Sam as an antagonist. I, for one, don’t find it hard to imagine the tall man with the white beard and hair, striped pants, and jacket (by the way, who dressed him?) peering in my windows to be sure that I am being honest about my tax paperwork. If he starts banging on my door, demanding some kind of payment, he will be labeled an antagonist. But I digress.

Antagonists are everywhere. But here’s the interesting thing about them: They don’t have to be the spawn of Satan. In writing, evil to the core, many experts say, actually makes an antagonist less believable. Because adversaries are people, too. They should and usually do have at least one redeeming quality or attribute, although perhaps buried deep under layers of muck. Think about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the movie, that is). Sure, she ordered her flying monkeys to stop a sweet girl from Kansas along with and equally sweet lion, tin man, and harmless scarecrow, but perhaps there’s another side to this witch. Maybe she baked banana nut cupcakes for those flying monkeys when she wasn’t in such a bad mood. I’m just saying…

So, the next time you write about or read about or encounter an antagonist, remember that he, she, or it probably has a softer side. Okay, this might not matter, but it’s good to know, right?

Monday, April 12, 2010


My dictionary defines frustration as “a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety. . . resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.”


I don’t know about you, but I often wear frustration the way I might wear a really ugly sweater against my will: with grudging tolerance. Lately, though, my frustration feels like a shrunken and ugly sweater. Think itchy and suffocating. This particular frustration is wrapped around my latest novel. I happen to be smitten with it (just sayin’), but I am ready to be done with it and send it out into the world. My work in progress and I have had great times together, but enough is enough.

Or is it? I have a few more elements to fuss with, revise, tweak, and massage. Yet, the hours in each day keep evaporating. Life stuff keeps popping up uninvited. Presentations and events that were scheduled months ago are suddenly here. Oh yes, and apparently tax paperwork must be filled out. And the phone keeps ringing--again and again and again, just to add to the fun. Argh!!! I don’t want to let my novel go before I’m satisfied that it is as good as it can be, but the editor in me is screaming For the love of all that is publishing, give yourself a DEADLINE, girl! Plus, there is this other novel in my head getting really impatient and squirmy for attention. Something like a neglected two year old.

Ahh, yes, frustration. Is there any of this kind of fun and nonsense in your world?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Meeting & Greeting

One of the really fun parts of being an author is meeting and spending time with readers. Last night I got to hang out with the Rockin’ Bookworms. They had just finished reading Dog Gone, so we had lots to talk about. Such fun! And yes, they are rockin’! We chatted about reading, writing, and Dog Gone (of course), but not necessarily in that order.

I answered all kinds of great questions. Everyone wanted to know if I have a dog now. When I said yes, we talked about his name and how he got it. We talked about others who had dogs, too.

We also talked about how I got the idea for Dog Gone. The Rockin’ Bookworms seemed pretty interested to hear that Dead End, the dog in the novel, was based on a dog my family had when I was growing up. A great pup with some really bad habits. Just ask the sheep that he and his doggie pals terrorized.

My new reading pals also wanted to know how I came up with the names for the characters, whether I had a sequel in mind for Dog Gone, what my favorite book is, and what I read when I was a middle-grade reader. They also wanted to know how it felt to see my name on a book cover. This was the easiest question of all to answer--exciting, but scary.

Our time together even included a snack break of cookies baked in the shape of dog bones, which, by the way, included the names of each person in the group as well as Dog and Gone. How impressive is that? Plus, they were yummy. During our treat time, we talked about publishing and how a story goes from being on a computer to being made into a book.

After eats, it was group discussion time. Thought-provoking questions were presented and each reader was encouraged to offer an answer and discuss it. Some questions included: What other ending might have worked for Dog Gone? Which characters did you most relate to and why? What did you like best about the story? Everyone agreed that the ending had to be the way it was written, to which I responded “Phew!” Ana answered the second question by saying that like Dill, some of her best friends are boys. Bella, though, most related to Dill because she understood the kind of struggles this character was going through regarding being honest about Dead End's bad behavior.

What a fun night! I think the best part of events such as meeting and greeting fabulous readers is their excitement and enthusiasm for books. It makes me want to kick into high gear to finish my latest work in progress.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Overhearing a conversation can be educational, scary, and really entertaining. Think tweens or teens in a mall. Need I say more? Some might say that eavesdropping is a job requirement for any writer. Others might say that eavesdropping is flat out rude. Sometimes, though, it’s impossible not to overhear a conversation. Has anyone out there not experienced the person on the cell phone using a really big voice in public? Raise your hand if you have not. If your hand is up, you’ve either been in retreat at Walden Pond for the last ten years or you live an area of tranquil bliss where cell phones are not appendages.

Anyway, I’ve overheard my share of the educational, the scary, and the hilarious. Below you will find some of my favorites.

A fifteen-ish girl in a mall: “She said that I needed to get over myself.” Girl snorts. “Yeah, right. Why would I want to do that?”

Man on a cell phone in an elevator: “I don’t care how contagious you are! Get you’re *bleep* into the office for that presentation.”

Miffed female to nonchalant male: “You didn’t tell me that you had a girlfriend.

Nonchalant male: “Would you have gone out with me if you knew I had a girl?”

Female: “NO!”

Male, now smirking: “Exactly.”

Girl on cell phone: “The garbage was all over the floor. The pie plate licked clean.” Pause. “Dog? No, our dog isn’t that gross. My brother ate that tossed out pie.”

Thirty-ish woman speaking to another woman on a train: “How can you kiss a guy who smells of scrambled eggs and cough drops?”

Mother to her twenty-something son: “You throw your personal information onto the internet in the way that zoo monkeys throw their poo.”

Wow. Remind me to whisper when I’m out and about in the world.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jackalope Fever?

Many wonderful readers of Buck Fever have asked about a sequel to this novel. So, how about Jackalope Fever? In Jackalope Fever, Joey’s father could become obsessed with finding a Jackalope—the mysterious jackrabbit that sports antelope horns or deer antlers. However, as in Buck Fever, Joey would not be too sure about whether he would be able to bring himself to shoot a jackalope. Actually, he would not even be sure that he could find one of these jackrabbit-antelope combos. Nonetheless, in Jackalope Fever, Joey’s dad would call upon Joey to use his special skill in tracking animals to find and hunt down a jackalope. Well, this certainly is a difficult situation, right? As in Buck Fever, Joey would know how to track and gain the trust of animals, but he'd have to wonder if his special skill would apply to the jackalope. In fact, Joey would have to question whether a jackalope is even an animal. Of course, more trouble in Joey’s family would have to escalate, as in Buck Fever, and Joey and his older sister, Philly, would once again find themselves in the middle of tensions difficult to fully understand. Joey would, again, try to keep the peace by making his dad proud. Joey would attempt to conquer his jackalope fever, which would lead to unanticipated consequences. Maybe a nasty jackalope bite? I hear they can be bad.

Okay. For those of you who think that I’ve totally lost my mind—your right. But Happy April Fools Day anyway. To be clear, there is no Jackalope Fever in my future. Not in the immediate future anyway. *wink*

And now, because you so patiently put up with me behaving like a five-year-old (no offense to any five-year-olds intended), here are a couple April Fools Day pranks for you to enjoy or use at your discretion. You are in no way allowed to blame me for these, by the way. If you do, I’ll send a jackalope after you.

Prank number one: Replace a pen or pens with pens that have the caps super-glued onto them. Or, paint the tips of pens or pencils with clear nail polish. You’ve probably figured out that when someone tries to write with one of these fools day pens or pencils, they’ll get nothing but frustration. P.S. The nail polish can be removed by dipping the tips in polish remover.

Prank number two: Leave a note on someone’s desk that Mr. Lyon or Mr. Behr called. He needs to be called back as soon as possible. Make sure to include the phone number, which should be the telephone number of a zoo. Imagine the knee-slapping fun as your victim calls the zoo and asks for Mr. Lyon.

Okay, now I’m going to grow up and get back to serious stuff.

Happy April Fools Day!