Category Archives: Miscellaneous

It’s a ‘T,’ not a ‘D’

2015 logoOur local high schools and most colleges around here have just wrapped up graduation festivities, but I know some kids in other parts of the country are actually still in school for another couple of weeks. So, in honor of those who haven’t yet walked across the stage as part of the Class of 2015, let me share a quick spelling lesson.

It’s one of those lessons that I want to share every year, without fail. One of those misspellings that absolutely drives me crazy. What is it, you ask? It’s simple.

The word is “congratulations,” not “congradulations.” Yes, that’s a “T” in the middle of the word, not a “D.”

I realize some marketing agencies and greeting card publishers think it’s cute to play off the word “graduate” by changing the “T” to a “D.” And some of these groups can actually get away with it by writing the word in a way that makes it clear they’re using a play on the word.

But for the rest of us who are posting signs outside businesses or writing notes in cards or decorating cakes? Keep the “T,” folks, because otherwise you look illiterate.

End of my annual springtime rant that embarrasses my family and makes them roll their eyes. ConGRATulations to all you graduates!

Weird Al and Word Crimes

The guys in my house (aka, husband and son) are longtime fans of Weird Al Yankovic and his crazy song parodies. They are funny and I’ve had plenty of laughs over them (and my guys’ renditions of them). But Weird Al has completely won me over with one of the songs from his new CD that was released this week.

Every writer, word lover, and book enthusiast will appreciate “Word Crimes” (which, I might add, is much better to me than the song it parodies). Watch it and get ready for your Friday afternoon laugh. Then I’d love to know which of the crimes drives you the most crazy.

Happy weekend!


No More Writing Guilt!

gavelEach year, I set out with fabulous, high-aiming writing goals. I’m going to finish at least one manuscript (of the umteen partially written ones saved on my collection of flash drives). I’m going to write a certain number of words each day/week/month. I’m going to spend a hour each day/every other day writing.

And on and on and on.

Then life kicks in and some of the goals I made some progress toward in the early weeks get sidetracked. Worse yet, they get thrown in the ditch and forgotten.

And then the guilt sets in.

I can’t always write a certain number of words every day. I have trouble finding uninterrupted blocks of time for writing (even 10 or 15 minutes, some days). I might be able to carve out some time for writing late at night, but I’m worn out from the day and can’t seem to keep my eyes open once I sit at my keyboard. I get excited about a new idea and toss my current project aside to follow the new path.

I’ve decided that this will be the year I don’t let those roadblocks and rabbit trails defeat me. Here’s why.

  • Maybe I can only write a couple of paragraphs while waiting to pick up my kids from school. But some words are better than no words, and they eventually can make a book if I string enough of them together.
  • Maybe the new idea gives me a chance to explore a new genre or writing from a different point of view (POV) or connects me with wonderful people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • Maybe I’m too tired to write some nights, but I can toy with ideas while doing all the usual mom stuff that I want to finish before collapsing in bed.

The point is, I can set all the goals I want — and that’s a good thing to do! — but maybe I need to be more realistic with them. I have a full-time job, a fairly busy freelance writing/editing business, and a family to love and enjoy. My husband helps with a lot of things, but I’m usually the one to take care of grocery shopping, errand running, and kids’ activity logistics. I’m active in church, help at my kids’ schools, and try to find at least one day a month when I can exercise. 🙂

I’m busy. We’re all busy. But if I want to write, then I’ll do it when I can and not feel guilty about when I can’t. Because I’m not Wonder Woman, I’m Real World Mom. And if I stop wasting so much time kicking myself for not writing more, maybe I’ll actually get some other things done and clear a few minutes for — gasp! — writing a few more sentences.

Your turn: What do you think? How do you juggle it all and not feel guilty? I’d love to know!

14 for 2014

Every January, I think about how fun it would be to keep a list of all the books I read that year. That’s as far as it usually gets – an idea that gets lost in the shuffle of life – but maybe this will be the year I actually do it!


To kick things off, I thought I’d share some books I’m looking forward to diving into this year. 14 books, to be exact – which you probably figured out since this post is titled “14 for 2014.” Some of these books will be new to me even though they’re not necessarily new titles. Others are on my waiting list because they won’t be released until later in 2014. And a few will be re-reads of books I enjoyed years ago.

Of course, I’ll read some nonfiction along the way, too, but this list is focusing on fiction. Partly because I read a lot more of it and partly because it’s easier for me to come up with 14 titles. So, here goes (in no particular order)!


New (or new to me) titles

Bird FaceThe Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson (a medieval retelling of the Cinderella story)

Bird Face by Cynthia Toney (a young adult book by one of my critique group partners; this will be her debut novel – I’m so excited for her!)

Bash and the Chicken Coop Caper by Burton Cole (the second in Burt’s middle grade series about zany cousins Bash and Beamer – and I’m proud to call him a critique group partner, too!)

Doon by Carey Corp and Laurie Langdon (a young adult fantasy that has two friends traveling to an alternate world in Scotland)

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill (nerdy girl Ellie writes her first novel and learns that her real and imaginary worlds might intersect more than she thought)

DoonThe Selection by Kiera Cass (dystopian romance that I’ll probably enjoy so much that I’ll read the entire trilogy)

A Beauty So Rare by Tamara Alexander (the latest historical romance from one of my all-time favorite authors)

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (the latest in his Heroes of Olympus series with Percy Jackson and friends – my son and I will probably spar over who gets to read it first)


And a few classics

Pride and Prejudice (I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I’ve seen a couple of movie versions but have never actually read the book)

The Scarlet Letter (I remember loving this book in high school once I slogged through the beginning – we’ll see if that still holds true)

Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (I read this one, but don’t remember much about it – time to change that!)

Fahrenheit 451 (another one I enjoyed reading in high school – plus my son will be reading it next semester so I thought it’d be fun to run through it again)

The Hobbit (yes, this is partly because of the movie series – it’s been so long since I read the book that I can’t remember which parts of the movies are accurate and which are just Hollywood)

To Kill a Mockingbird (I liked this in high school and my son really enjoyed reading it last year; since it’s on our bookshelf, why not enjoy it again?)


Your turn: What books are you planning to read in 2014? Any particular reason why? I’d love to know, because then I’ll probably add them to my own list! 

Happy New Year! 🙂

Friday Fun: Book Dominoes

Here’s something for fun on a Friday afternoon — two cool record-setting domino paths of books. The first is from the Seattle Public Library and was a kick-off promo for their 2013 Summer Reading Program. It set a world record!

The second is from a book association in Belgium. It includes almost 5,000 books, so they claim they’ve set a new world record. (Thanks to literary agent Steve Laube for posting this on his blog, where I first saw it.)

Here’s Seattle’s creation:

And here’s the one from Belgium:

Your turn: Which one do you think is cooler? Or, what’s your favorite part of them?

How a Drum Circle Relates to Writing

I did something completely new and different last weekend – participated in a recreational drum circle.

Drum circles have been around for hundreds of years (or maybe even thousands, I’m not sure). It’s a time when people come together to play handheld drums and other percussion instruments as a common group. Circles can be used as celebrations, a way to build community, or just a chance to have fun. Our leader started the baseline rhythm and we were able to add to it with our own instruments.

drum 2The first day we learned about the instruments, the concept of drum circles, and having fun together. I played this really cool Brazilian triple chime and had a blast tapping rhythms that hopefully fit with the bigger sound.

We did different rhythms and activities the next day, but they all had the same purpose – to let us express our individuality while still being part of (and fitting in with) the underlying theme.

We ended on Saturday with a time of making wind chime music. We used the quieter, more subtle instruments and didn’t try to stay in synch with each other as much as let the sound of our instrument grow and fade before we played it again. But, underneath it all, two of us tapped buffalo drums to keep a common beat going. It was one of the most relaxing and peaceful times I’ve ever experienced, and was even more special because of sharing it with friends.

Our leader gave us the chance to share some of our thoughts before we ended the time together each day.  I loved hearing how we found connections personally, spiritually, and as writers (because this was an activity at a writers’ conference). Things like:

  • We all have gifts and songs to share, and ways to express ourselves.
  • It’s OK to celebrate our uniqueness and who God made us to be, as people and as writers.
  • We write about different things, for different formats or in different genres. But we’re all still part of the bigger writing community and have a place to fit into the big picture.  
  • There’s nothing wrong with giving ourselves permission to play sometimes – and most of us probably need to do it more often!


DSC04011All in all, it was a great experience – especially considering I had no idea what to expect! I would love to do something like that again if given the chance.

Your turn: Have you ever been part of a group doing something like that? How do you see your enjoyment of books or writing fitting in with other people?  


Blog Meme: TRUST and Writing Stars

ImageToday I’m joining a blogging meme to get myself thinking about some different things related to this blog. The challenge (thanks to Edie Melson over at The Write Conversation) is to use an acrostic of the word TRUST and how it can tie in with the blog.

So here goes …

T = Teens and tweens, who I write this blog for. And, yes, I’ve been slack about things lately but am really trying to get back on schedule.

R = Reviews of books that are good for teens and tweens. Most of the books I post about and review are written from a Christian perspective because I follow Christ – and because they’re great books written by wonderfully talented authors. I’ll sometimes mention or review books from a secular publisher (as opposed to one that focuses on the Christian market), but will still follow my no-smut-allowed rule.

U = Understanding how much your teachers are trying to cram into your brains, and how limited their time to do that really is. I come from a long line of teachers on both sides of my family, so I’m pretty familiar with their challenges even though I’m not standing in front of a classroom full of you every day. A lot of the writing tips I cover here are straight from my kids’ class curriculums, because I know those are the real-world things you’re expected to know. As I say on my About page, I’m not trying to replace what teachers do in the classroom – I’m just trying to give an extra boost to their lessons and hopefully help you understand things better.

S = Spotlights on authors who might be new to you. Did you know that most authors (except the super big name ones who’ve sold a gazillion books) have to do the bulk of book promotion and marketing themselves? The word gets out about great books because readers who enjoy the stories or who know the authors share it with other readers. They blog, they write book reviews, they tell their friends. My hope is that you’ll get interested in some of the authors I spotlight here and will check out their books for yourself.

T = Tips for becoming a better writer, whether it’s a paper for your English class or that novel you scribble notes about when you’re supposed to be asleep … or studying for that science test … or listening to your mom’s latest lecture.

I guess Writing Stars has more to do with trust than I realized. 🙂 Do you think that’s an accurate rundown? Or, if not, what would your suggestions be?

And since this is a meme … now it’s your turn! Click below to link your own blog post about TRUST.


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Book Cover Sneak Peek — The Captive Maiden

One of the most fun things for an author is getting that first look at the cover for her new book. I’m glad to be one of the “sneak peek” bloggers for Melanie Dickerson today, here with the cover for her novel that will be released in October. It’s called The Captive Maiden, and is a loose retelling of Cinderella set in Medieval Germany.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Captive MaidenHappily Ever After …Or Happily Nevermore? Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten—the boy she has daydreamed about for years—is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

Isn’t it a gorgeous cover? I love it — and think that Melanie’s book covers have all been really nice but have gotten better with each release. She has some great designers on her team!

This will be Melanie’s fourth book, and I’ve enjoyed all of her others so far. Even though she writes “fairy tale retellings,” they aren’t your standard stories from childhood. There’s enough from the fairy tale to make it familiar, but Melanie adds lots of other characters and plot surprises to keep it interesting. And although they’re all stand-alone books, it helps to read them in the order they’re published because you find some unexpected connections along the way.

Her first title was The Healer’s Apprentice, based on Sleeping Beauty. Then Melanie wrote The Merchant’s Daughter, based on Beauty and the Beast. Last year brought The Fairest Beauty, a retelling of Snow White, and now we’re waiting for The Captive Maiden. If you like sweet romances or are looking for romances to recommend to teen girls, visit Melanie’s website or blog to learn more about all her books. They’re a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to adding The Captive Maiden to my collection. (You can also preorder The Captive Maiden on Amazon)

Ask Your Question!

answer desk

Tomorrow — March 14 — is International Ask a Question Day. Did you know that? (See, there’s our first question LOL) I’ve never been afraid to ask questions, which I think is partly because I come from a family full of teachers. Wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask” or, “If you have a question, chances are someone else does too.”

So, in the spirit of International Ask a Question Day … what’s your question? What do you want to learn about writing? Or what MG or YA books do you want me to review? Feel free to ask anything, though I won’t guarantee answers. 🙂 I look forward to hearing from you!


My To-Read Pile

Here are the books fighting for the top spot on my “read me next” pile. Which do you think I should go with, and why?


In case you can’t read all the titles, here’s the rundown:

  • Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK, by Betsy St. Amant
  • The Fairest Beauty, by Melanie Dickerson
  • Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
  • The Curse of Captain LaFoote, by Eddie Jones
  • Storyteller, by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., by Kate Messner
  • Matched, by Ally Condie
  • House of Dark Shadows, by Robert Liparulo
  • Unstoppable, by Tim Green

Yes, the old saying is definitely true at my house — so many books, so little time! Happy weekend. — and happy reading! 🙂


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