Friday, December 30, 2011

Apparently there's an Angry Birds board game... our almost-four-year-old's cake will be easy! I'm not the best at decorating (my mom is--she's amazing with making frosting do what she wants). But give me toys to stick on top of a cake and I'm good! Last year his cake looked like this:

See? They're building a marshmallow tower! Uh...yay!

And this is what my boys looked like:

We'll see how it goes this year! But I can totally stick toys on top of cakes.  Just so you know.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Game Night!

We went to the Children's Museum in Salt Lake today. 'Twas fun, but busy. Between grading, beta-reading, trying to edit my own books, tickling children, cleaning up piles of baby-thrown floor food, making sure people eat, sleeping...well, is it any wonder that today all I want to do is post this picture?

This is a bit later than Christmas, but it's from our local Festival of Trees. Isn't the beard impressive?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Angry Birds Cake

My parents arrived last night, so, in the interest of playing games, I present to you the birthday cake my son wants for his fourth birthday:

Monday, December 26, 2011


I love Christmas. We woke around 6:30 (courtesy of three-year-old--at least it wasn't sooner!), got dressed, ate breakfast, and looked at gifts from Santa. After a few minutes of putting together Lego Star Wars sets and Hungry Hungry Hippos, we went to an hour of church. When we came home, we opened the rest of the presents under the tree.  It was a wonderful year, even though I didn't spend anything on my husband and he didn't spend anything on me. We bought a new computer, you see, and it was expensive, so...we didn't buy extra presents.

Instead, my husband gave me a morning to sleep in and eight hours (!) of daddy-children time I can spend on anything from writing to baths to jaunts around local bookstores. I gave him some wrapped library books (tee hee!) that he can read quickly, and coupons for various things, including movie rentals (we haven't seen Super 8 yet!) and time I can watch the boys while he plays games (football, ping pong, Diablo III when it comes out...). Anyway. If you know someone, gifts don't have to cost anything.  Time, service, clever collections of The Far Side you check out, cookie dough--all sorts of ideas can make great presents without costing anything!

So. I loved our Christmas, and so did all my boys.  As for our pets...if you have cats, I would suggest giving them shrimp.

Nothing makes cats happier than a tasty Christmas shrimp.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Sorry about the silence yesterday.  Apparently there is a horrible Death Germ that wishes to destroy our Christmas merrymaking, and it is sweeping through our household.  (Except for the cats. Apparently cats are immune to the Death Germ). But I am popping in to say that we are not beaten! We are mending, and we will still sing carols, and watch the animated Grinch smile, and blink blearily at the twinkling lights...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Rejection is a fearsome beast.  I always told myself I was querying in batches of ten (or so) because I wanted to wait and get feedback on fulls and partials. And I've gotten valuable feedback on fulls, so I suppose that's worked for me. But there's also the whole 'gah-if-I'm-submitting-rejections-will-come!' fear.  I did not admit to this fear, not really. After all, every time you bake cookies you could burn them. Every time you have a party, someone could end up sad because you didn't have enough cookies because some of them got burnt. The point is, I knew that it takes risk to do anything worthwhile, but I do think part of my waiting had to do with nerves.

I recognize that, though. So now I am submitting! I see my procrastination-brought-on-by-fear, and I am vanquishing it! Although I am taking a break tonight. Today was my last day teaching in 2011, so I think tonight I deserve some nice eggnog. Or popcorn and root beer.  And...maybe I'll watch Muppet Christmas Carol.

Best. Adaptation. Ever. Makes me want to read the book every time I see it!

Yay Muppets!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Is it break yet?

I have to teach tomorrow. And, while I love my job, it is sort of crazy whenever Christmas falls on a Sunday--people have to work through the 23rd, often enough, which doesn't give as much time for eggnog and gingersnaps as I would like.

 Speaking of cookies, here is a recipe for some delicious ones.  If you like molasses (and I do), and if you are in a cookie-baking sort of mood...I shall live vicariously through you!

Molasses Sugar Cookies

¾ c shortening
1 c sugar
¼ c molasses
1 egg
2 t baking soda
2 c sifted all-purpose flour
2 t cloves
½ t ginger
1 t cinnamon
½ t salt

Melt shortening in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat; let cool.  Add sugar, molasses, and egg; beat well.  Sift together flour, soda, cloves, ginger, salt, and cinnamon: add to first mixture.  Mix well.  Chill.  Form 1-inch balls, roll in granulated sugar, and place on greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake in moderately hot oven (375 degrees) for 8 to 10 minutes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest

Today's The Deja Vu blogfest, which means I shall post sooner than later! I'm supposed to go back through my archives and re-post a forgotten tidbit that is awesome.

Hmmm...I don't even have much of an archive, but this is hard! There's the first post where I set up my rules so I could enjoy blogging, the post about my family, and my not-very-informative post about em-dashes and otters.

Finally I settled on one that didn't insult semi-colons or talk about hobbits.  I chose it because I am currently finding the charts very useful in motivating my three-year-old (and myself) to do those ever-friendly chores.  There's something satisfying about checking off a to-do list--or putting a tire on your very own Might Machine Chore Chart.'s the original post:

Chore charts

I spent a few hours this week putting together chore charts.  I'd like to say it's because I'm finally becoming responsible and adult-like, but actually it's because I like an excuse to paint.  If our house stays a little neater...well, that's just awesome bonus sauce.  There's one circle on each chart for every day of the week, and they're attached with Velcro so we can add/detach them.  Good idea?  We'll see.

Anyway.  Pictures.

Here's my husband's.  He ordered a pizza, with ONLY pepperoni (although in real life he eats lots of toppings--I think he was being sweet and keeping it simple for me):

And here's my three-year-old's.  He didn't care about difficulty level (or Mommy's lack of interest in construction vehicles), but his was still fun to paint:

Mine...well, all the initials on the spines of the books correspond with real authors.  Ooh!  And there's a raven!  I like ravens...

The initials are G.C., T.P., M.R., R.D., E.B.W., W.S., and E.S.  Make your guesses in the comments (if you dare...)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Tis the Season

I started submitting again this week.  I know, I know--I said I was going to submit a while ago, back when I posted my query (which is better now, by the way), but I sort of kind of hate querying and only submitted a few more. Which upped my total queried agents to about 25.  Anyway, to make a long story short, I am actually happy with my query (finally! those things are difficult!), so I started sending it out this week. A lot.

And I'm getting partial and full requests! Multiple ones! It is a strange and exciting thing (I sort of expected silence in December, but this is better.  Yay!)

I've been waiting on a couple of other agents for a while, which is one of the reasons I wasn't submitting to new ones.  But it feels good to get some more pages out there (Writer's House?!?), and there's the plain fact that I need to find the right reader for my book.  I don't like every book I pick up, even ones that come with enthusiastic recommendations, and it makes sense that agent's tastes will also vary.

Here is a fairly long video of Holdman Christmas lights from 2010. This year their lights are at a mall (which makes sense, given the amount of traffic they must attract), but here's some songs and snow at their house. 'Tis the season!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Apparently, if you get more sleep, sometimes you wake up with your right eye glued shut by gunk. And then, when you get it open and wash your hands a gazillion times, you notice that your eyes are all Christmas-colored--red where they should be white and greener in the iris because of all the contrast. Hooray! you think as you go about your day. I have pink eye, and I look festive.


Now I am getting glasses for the first time in ten years! They don't look like this, although I could probably scare a few people if they did. Hmm...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


You know what is most important during the holidays? I love my family. There's books, and church, and lights, and cocoadecorationspresentsgamessparklyfun.

But you can't enjoy any of it without sleep.

So here is my resolution: even though I'm in the middle of grading the longest essay of the semester, and shopping for my friends and family, and editing my second book while querying my first book (which gets confusing), and trying to find time for various lights and holiday magic things, I will still go to bed. Before eleven. Sleep can be a writing and holiday goal, too!

I couldn't find a picture of Cindy Lou Who sleeping, but this is what she would look like if she, say, got up at three in the morning wanting breakfast like certain three-year-olds in our house (he fell asleep in Mommy's arms instead, thank goodness).

Monday, December 12, 2011


Sometimes I reward myself.  Usually I use books, but when we're poor (like now, 'cause of the new computer), I can use things like Skittles.  I just finished reading my second book and planning out revisions (I drew up checklists and everything). I got Skittles!

Here is a commercial celebrating my success.  I feel bad for this guy.  But it makes me laugh anyway. And, hey, some Skittles are red and green, so...uh...holidays? Huh. I guess today just hasn't been the most holiday-y day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Well, we're working through our Christmas shopping, but since lots of my friends and family live other places (yay Washington! and Oregon, and California, and New York...), I've got some cards and packages to get ready for shipping.  Next year I should be smarter and buy everything online! Anyway. Here is my favorite six or so seconds from one of the two Christmas movies I own.  I love the wrinkles! And those eyebrows, and the way his hair unfurls...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

House lights

So we  haven't exactly put up our outdoor lights yet.  It is cold out there, and we have two boys who would try to climb the ladder, and...yeah, I'll just watch this video and pretend like our house-in-a-coul-de-sac is this awesome.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas wreath treats

I have never shared a recipe, right? Well, besides this one, which doesn't really count.  But I have lots of Christmas recipes, and today we made Christmas Wreaths.  They are quite easy, and tasty, if you like Rice Krispy Treats.  You make them as follows:

32 big marshmallows
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Green food coloring
6 cups Corn Flakes

Put the marshmallows and butter in a pot, and turn the stove onto medium heat.  Stir occasionally until they melt.

While the marshmallow/butter stuff is melting (mmm), put the cornflakes in a large bowl.  Set aside.

After everything in the pot is melted, add the vanilla and green food coloring.  Pour it over the cornflakes and stir them up until the cornflakes are all covered (and green!).  Pull out some waxed paper (or something equally non-sticky), put two-inch lumps (or so) of the cornflake mixture on the paper, and use buttery hands to shape those lumps into donut-wreath-shaped treats (basically, just poke a hole in the middle).  They firm up as they get cooler, and you can add some little red hot candies along the sides if you want them to look pretty.

Okay, after typing that up, it sounds more complicated than it is.  Really, the wreaths only take about fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, if you have a three-year-old and a baby to "help." And they are tasty! Trust me.

Don't you love how these wreaths both make Santa's beard look sickly and prevent him from talking/smoking/breathing through his mouth? Sort of creepy, except this is what the candies look like, usually. Huzzah for Santa-face plates!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Oh, I missed having a computer.  See, Geekbox, which was building our new computer, called on  Thursday last week and asked for our laptop to transfer data.  And we didn't get it back until today.  I didn't realize how much I'd miss blogging--or how very impossible blogging would be on my phone--and I found that I got behind on all sorts of critiquing and blog reading.  But it's all worth it now: I'm typing on a new computer, with keys that don't have the letters worn off, and it is exciting.  Also, we can play Portal 2 co-op.  Also, I am rereading my second book, and it is better than my first book, which is super-exciting.  Also, it is Christmas!  So here is a Christmas song I grew up with.  (What do people who didn't grow up with Manheim Steamroller think of them? This is something I do not currently know.)


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festival of Trees

Today was our local Festival of Trees, where there are lines and lines of trees and lights, a Kiddie Corner, Santa Clause, treats, and performances from various local organizations.  Oh, and all the proceeds go to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake.

I love Christmas.  And that thing I said yesterday about waiting to celebrate? It's just on the blog.  My trees (okay, yes, we have two) are up, we're playing Sesame Street Christmas carols on my iPod, and I can still taste the chocolate-covered banana we ate at the Festival earlier.  The greatest thing about it is that you know all the proceeds go to the hospital.  Not to some crazy-big bank or corporation, but to sick children who could use the support.  And there are some awesome things to do!  I stood in the center of a giant bubble with my three-year-old, chased my one-year-old around the quilt section, saw a tree made out of tires and another tree made out of books (that you could still read!), ate delicious cinnamon scones, and watched my children's cheeks get sore from all the grinning.

This is a tree from a few years ago (2009).  It was made out of glass, and had lights that flickered and danced to a soundtrack that played behind it.  I love seeing the art people donate--it's so selfless and cool!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The past few years of my life helped me develop some patience, but I still could use quite a bit more.  Pregnancy is an exercise in waiting, especially at the end.  Children--ah, children are a wonderful way to learn you can't plan everything (or, some days, anything).  And then there's publishing, which moves slowly (it doesn't help that I query slowly as well), and finishing books, and polishing books before you send them out...I'd like to think I could tell my five-year-old self, who really, really hated it when her mom said, "Patience is a virtue," that I've finally got it down.

Except that is a lie.

At least I've been patient about talking about the holiday season on this blog!  I love Christmas.  I love the music and the lights and that warm family-together-fuzzy-nostalgic feeling I'm sucker enough to get.  I do not love sappy horrible songs like "Christmas Shoes," but old classics like "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" can put me in a good mood within three or four notes.

But I am patient, and it's November, and I'm not posting about Christmas yet.  Nope.  Not one word.

So here is a totally innocent picture of Auburn, Washington, where I grew up.  The pine trees are coincidence, as is the snow, because I am waiting for two more days!  Except for the fact that we've already put up the tree, and the lights, and the nativities, and the train...

Monday, November 28, 2011

New computer!

We are buying a new computer.  It will be able to play Portal 2.  So I can play the co-op mode at last!  This makes me happy.  In honor of our new computer, I shall give you this trailer video:

Should I become the round one? Or the oblong one? My three-year-old wants me to be the shorter, chubbier model...but we'll see!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Grateful: Days 3, 4, and 5

Oops!  I guess having a Thanksgiving at our house on Wednesday at our house and another (possibly more official, day-wise) Thanksgiving yesterday at my in-law's house made it so I did not update my blog.  At all.  Hopefully you were so full of turkey and pie you didn't notice! Except I should probably delete this intro...

Let's see.  On Day 3 I felt especially grateful for the family I grew up in.  Brilliant parents, three awesome and hilarious little sisters, and traditions that I still love.  I am sort of homesick for Seattle right now, but seeing my sister and her husband and his brother made me super happy, because they are, as I mentioned, hilarious and awesome. Yay family!

Day 4: I married into a huge family.  Fourteen kids (counting my husband, who's right in the middle), with over thirty nieces and nephews between all of them.  We have the best time playing games, chatting, sharing food, helping our children run on the is pretty much the happiest exhaustion ever, and I love it!

Day 5: Wow, there's lots more I should add.  Books, creativity, our house, lots of tasty food, cats, education, cars, friends, games, libraries...I'm sure I'm missing something completely obvious that I should talk about, but right now I'm most grateful for my friendships with people I've never physically seen.  The Absolute Write Forums helped me meet so many wonderful writers, and I've got amazing critique partners in the UK and all across the United States!  The internet allows me to toss ideas over to New York and get them back within a day, and I've encountered so many incredible support groups and agents and blogs in the past year that I feel truly lucky.  So if you leave comments, or silently lurk-read (usually me), or send me your wonderful stories for feedback (yay!), or blog or post on the forums...thank you, and have a happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

I am planning on putting up our Christmas tree today or tomorrow, which will be so much fun with our three-year-old and (gulp) baby!  I waited until after Thanksgiving, though.  Aren't you proud of me?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grateful: Day Two

I'm grateful for my boys:

There's nothing I love more in the world than these three faces. And yes, they are sitting on a dinosaur at the zoo.  Aren't they awesome*?

*Speaking of awesome, my three-year-old made up a joke a while ago that goes something like this:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Cow who?
It ate you!!!

He told it three times tonight.  It cracks me up every time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grateful: Day One

There's lots of people posting about things they're grateful for every day this month, on Facebook and Twitter and such, so I decided to have themed week.  I've got lots to be grateful for, and I can't cover everything even if that's all I ever wrote about.  But I can try to say some of the big things.  And I will:


Today was the only day I have to work this week, because my students get Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off, and I teach every other day.  And I have to say: I am grateful for my job.

For those of you who don't know, I teach writing as an adjunct professor for the University of Utah.  I used to travel up to classes and hold lectures there, but they have a partnership with a nearby charter high school, and I've always loved teaching younger (freshman-aged) students.  Of course I volunteered, and it was the best decision of my career.

The students I get in my classes are generally smart, motivated, and super talented.  I love in-class discussions, and the questions I get from lectures, and watching how carefully and intelligently they review each others' essays.  I may not be especially fond of the grading process, but I do appreciate how my comments can help create a personalized dialogue between me and students, ultimately improving their writing and, in some cases, teaching me a thing or two as well.  I took a lot of science classes as an undergraduate, and I toyed with the idea of becoming a microbiology professor or something (chemistry professors get to blow stuff up!), but writers can tie anything in to their discipline.  Water polo rules? Woorari poison darts? Werewolves? You can write about anything you know (including explosions) and you can learn from students (I've learned tons!), so I'm pretty happy with my chosen subject.

I stayed at work late today to talk with a handful of students about Thanksgiving traditions, Ayn Rand, and fantasy villains.  I've worked a lot of jobs in my life, but I can tell you that I never stayed late at Dairy Queen during high school, or at the DoubleTree Inn in Seatac where I temped over summers between semesters.  I love my job now, though, and I know how lucky I am to spend time with such awesome people!

My handwriting on the board actually isn't that good, and most my classrooms have whiteboards.  Still, I can pretend this is something I wrote, blurs and all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Game Night!

I'll post this morning, because last night my sister and her husband came over, so after the kids went to bed we played games.

Now we have a lot of games.  My dad loves games, and we grew up with whole closets full of games we could pick out and play.  Since we have many choices, we choose our game for the night by starting out with Mario Kart Wii.  Whoever wins the four-person race by earning the most points picks what we'll do next.

Yesterday we played Scribblish, which is super fun if you have the right group and completely deserves its own post.

So that's what I was doing instead of blogging.  Doodling kangaroos and mad scientists and zom-bees (terrible pun--I was tired).  Whee!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Well, I wasn't lazy the rest of the day, but I'm feeling lazy now.  Earlier, I taught, finished a shot story, edited a critique partner's novel, took my three-year-old to the dentist, and (with my husband) watched three kids in addition to our two.  Now I am ready to sit back and watch something.  So here are my two favorite Kid History movies--the first because of the grapes, the second because the healthy eating reminds me of my own mother.  Watch with me, if you'd like!

(By the way, this really is the sort of thing you do in college when you're at Brigham Young University.  Make weird videos, tell stories, watch videos other people made in huge auditoriums while yelling things like "Yellow grapes!" and "Ninja vanish!" I recognize those auditoriums, by the way.  I'll have to write a post about a 'modern music' concert I went to in one of them...when I'm less lazy!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Building a World

Information flow is a tricky beast for me.  I spent lots of time during my undergraduate and graduate degrees examining books with beautiful language, excellent characterization, timeless themes...and absolutely no magic.  Or, if there was magic, it was allegorical and in a seventeenth-century poem.  So I get out of school, and I write a book, and I find that I have strategies for characters.  And language.  And themes.  But I discover that there's also this thing called world building, where you have to explain how your magic works, where you have to set up rules in a careful way to make your book punchy-surprising at the end.

And it's something I never learned how to do.

For an example of my rewriting style, I'll share my strategy for characters: I highlight each main character with a single color, every line they speak, every action they do (sometimes I just draw lines down the side).  Then I take a page in my notebook and make a list of their goals, attributes, habits when they're nervous/angry/happy--anything I know about the character, including what I want the reader to feel at various points.  Sometimes I make (bad) sketches.  And then I go back through the manuscript with my colored markers and rewrite (or give a page in my notebook where I rewrite).  And it works.  Sometimes it takes me a few drafts, but it works!

I need something like that for world/magic building.  Ideas are welcome.  And I'll let you know what I end up doing, because if you're crazy enough to write fantasy, you've got to build those words into worlds!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I love games.  And I'm not all that picky--we've got board games and card games and computer games and Wii get the idea.  But one of my favorite games, probably because I'm twisted, is the game of Werewolves.

Werewolves comes from a game called Mafia, which was made up by a psychology grad student in 1986.  The premise is fairly simple: you get a group of eight people or more, pass out roles that the players aren't allowed to share, and start playing based off of whatever character you get.  In the most basic game, you're either a werewolf or a villager--if you're a werewolf, you want to eat villagers until you rule the town, and if you're a villager, you want to execute all those vicious werewolves so you'll stop getting eaten.

Okay, so it sounds more complicated on paper than it does in my head.  Just trust me.  It's fun.  I play it every year with my class (I moderated it today, in fact!), and my students rush out and buy copies over the weekend to play with their friends.  And it really does help with writing!  Watching for people's tells while lying, and figuring out how to manipulate others when you're a werewolf--it's a play of charisma, rhetoric, and character study that I love.  In case I've confused you more than helped, there's a video below that explains the basics (although the included games are not nearly as good as the games I've played/moderated).  But werewolves is awesome!  You should try to play it, and tell me if you do!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Tomorrow I teach.  In fact, tomorrow I pick up another batch of papers to grade--and lots of my students, this time, chose to write about education.  I come from the public school system.  I always loved school, except middle school, and even then I had some exceptional teachers.  But I know there are lots students who struggle, lots of brilliant people who just aren't "academic," and I've thought a lot about what can be done to help those students reach their full potential.

So here's an interesting video--with animation!--about how the school system works.  I'm especially fascinated about the changes that go on in out-of-the-box thinking between Kindergarten and High School and how that might have to do with the factory mentality of the current system.  Also, I wish I could draw such clear images!  It is a few minutes long, but it's worth the watch (did I mention drawings?).  Parents, kids, or anyone who wants to be treated by a smart doctor in 2030: I figure education should be important to all of us!

Friday, November 11, 2011


I can't listen to music while I write--I need silence to focus--but I love music. I particularly love albums with beautiful lyrics tied together by theme or by story.

One of my favorite albums ever was Lungs by Florence and the Machine.  So last week I bought Ceremonials, their latest work, and I am enjoying it more every time I listen.

Where Lungs seemed to have a fairytale feel, with beasts and blood and wishes gone awry, Ceremonials draws heavily on Christian ideas and myths.  Demons, revelations, light, sacrament--the music is still full of drums, it's still haunting, but I love how the two albums draw on very different sources and come up with magic from both.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Still recovering...

...but I am feeling well enough to post a nerdy joke.  It is something I always thought was strange:

Also, I want these earrings:

If I get them by 3/14 of next year, I will smile all the day long.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Blah.  I'm sniffly and tired, which isn't essential for you to know at all.  What is important for you to know is that I may use my evenings for the next few days for recovery rather than blogging.  Chicken soup and saltines and sleep.  That sort of thing.

But babies make everything better, right? Well, except for the sleeping stuff...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Five kids

I got to watch five kids today!  Two nieces, one nephew, and two sons.  They play super well together...but I am exhausted, and have nothing but respect for mothers who watch five (or more) kids every day.  I can't imagine a harder job!

Speaking of jobs, I'm currently rewriting key points in the middle of my first manuscript (Swindle Witch) based off of some excellent critiques.  I have had fits with the middle, but I think I've finally figured it out.  It's all about world building and info dumping, and I struggled because--well, it was my first novel, and my first fantasy story in a really, really long time.  I'm excited about the changes I'm making now, though--I think they'll make my middle chapters as strong as my start, and strengthen the ending as well.  Yay for revision!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kid History!

I've just received some wonderful feedback on my novel, and I must go edit the middle (oh, middle, you coy, tricky beast!).  To entertain you, here is the first of the Kid History clips.  They are funny, and there are six.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Phone cameras

I never had a cell phone before this summer.  True story.  Now that I have one, I've decided that one of my favorite aspects is the camera.

Here are some pictures I took when I first got the camera.  They summarize the basic awesomeness of my day:

Not perfect quality, but who wouldn't want to catch these crazy brothers when they're playing together on the couch?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Thanks to Josh over at The Blog that Helps You Diagnose Your Characters, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award! This is exciting, especially since I hop over to his blog every time it updates because it is fascinating.

So.  The rules in accepting this award: thank the person who nominated you (thanks again!). Share 7 things about yourself so that your readers can learn more about you (see below!), and nominate 7 other newly-discovered bloggers and let them know you nominated them (see below, and I will!).

Things About Me:

1. I can wiggle my ears.  Both at once and one at a time.  I can't do it while smiling, though, which makes it tricky when I try to show people.
2. I've got brown hair and brown eyes.  My husband has black hair and green eyes.  My three-year-old has golden-brown hair and hazel eyes.  And my one-year-old has golden-brown hair and blue eyes.  The blondish hair and the blue eyes surprised us--we expected our darker-hair-and-eye-genes to win out!
3. Me and my husband picked up Marilynne Robinson once and drove her from her hotel to a reading at the library.  So I've met one of my favorite authors.  She sat in my car.  She is very, very smart.
4. Apparently I love working with ice cream or writing.  I was a manager at Dairy Queen in high school, worked odd ice cream and editing jobs during my undergrad at BYU, and entered my current job teaching writing at the University of Utah when I started my graduate program. I did work at a plastics company, a hotel, and as a painter during some of the summers, but I didn't like pretending to be busy when I really had nothing to do, so those jobs were somewhat painful. Writing and ice cream rock, though!
5. I'm the oldest of four girls, but now I'm outnumbered by boys in our house.  Unless you count our two female cats...then we're even.
6. I love Portal.  And Portal 2.  And the Half Life games, because Valve is awesome.  I used to play more Blizzard games (never World of Warcraft, but I've beat the others), but I haven't played those as much since I had children.
7. As I child I loved My Little Ponies, and I am glad they now have a TV show that is fun and hilarious.  It's all about the writing (well, the writing is the base, at least, although you still need the animation and the voice acting and the music and the directing and so on...).

Let me know if there's other random stuff you want to learn about me, and I shall share more sometime...

Now to the list of seven bloggers!

1. Monica the Mighty: A blog about a super-amazing mother of seven who happens to be a fantastic writer.  You should read the archives. In fact, you should read everything she writes.  Because she is awesome. (She's my sister-in-law, so I can attest to her awesomeness in person as well!)
2. The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment: This one is probably already known to everyone, but I've been enjoying it.  Especially the recent series on monsters! Very useful for writers, and fun, too.
3. C'MERE: Website of K. Marie Criddle.  Pictures of surly unicorns.  Facts about butterflies.  Makes me smile every time.
4. Walking in a Writer's Wonderland: The blog of my romance-writing critique partner of coolness. Personal tidbits about another writer's experience in this big, bad writing world.  Also, mini muffins!
5. Rebecca Mahoney--Writer: She's busy revising right now, but she's got great information, and she's a terrific and supportive writer!
6. Losing Sanity: A new discovery from the recent Pay It Forward blogfest.  I love the happiness project! And I'm enjoying the archives too.
7. Winget Family: I love the photos! This is another sister-in-law blog, and she is a foodie and a mother of three very cute little girls! The Wingets are the best hosts ever, by the way.  Just so you know.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Paintings

Happy Halloween!

I've mentioned in the past  that I like to paint stuff and stick it on our walls.

So for Halloween, here is a post of what is up on our walls right now.  Sort of.  Although the pictures are from my phone, and taken quickly, before a certain three-year-old could snatch it away and open up Angry Birds...


After many Blogger image errors... are some pictures I finally managed to post!

The tiger is for our kids (our baby costume is a tiger), the vampire is my husband...

...and of course I get to be a powerful happy witch!  Although if I were TRULY powerful, there would be no more computer errors--even if it is a creepy, ghoulish night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I am Dorrie!

Tonight we went to a neighborhood Halloween party.  We got candy.  Our costumes included:

Football fan (husband--he really was listening to the BYU game in one ear the entire time)

Dorrie the Witch (me)

Maskless Darth Vader (three-year-old)

Constantly Toddling Giraffe (one-year-old)

Dorrie is awesome!  She was my favorite character as a child--she showed me that girls can be witches with power to save everyone, and they don't even need matching socks!  Every book started with something close to this line: "This is Dorrie. She is a witch.  A little witch.  Her hat is always crooked and her socks never match.  She lives in a house with her mother, Cook, and her little cat Gink."

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Sister visiting.  Three-year-old sick.  Grading, editing, buying-candy-vacuuming-crumbled-crackers kind of day.

Here is the first music video I ever saw.  Enjoy?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I finished a book in the past week.  It followed a trilogy.  And it ended with a gigantic cliffhanger.

I'm all about letting readers do work when I write.  I love it when writers leave something open for me to interpret--not too open, but clever enough that I can feel smart when I understand.  For example, when I was doing my undergraduate degree I took a wonderful creative nonfiction workshop from Patrick Madden, and we did a section on fragmentary essays.  I chose food as a theme.  I picked all sorts of interconnected stories about food from my life, like the time when I was three that I tried to eat razors because I thought they were gum, or an day I spent with a friend with Willi Prader syndrome who couldn't tell when he was full.  And interspersed with these reminiscences were a handful of stories that I told in fairytale-like prose.  At risk of horrible embarrassment, I'll post the one my class chose to read aloud:

Hurry! her husband urges, shoving her through the door, but she leans on his arm, slowing him because she leaves behind people she has known for years and years, cookbooks and recipes, tastes and smells never to be found again on this earth.  Only half awake she stumbles through the streets and past the city walls, the stone cutting and hissing beneath her bare feet.  Her mind curls in the bed, still, and she longs for a warm drink or a bit of wheat bread, freshly baked.  She reaches the tall black stone on the outskirts of the town, and although her husband pushes on without glancing back, she takes a moment to rest.  To breathe.  The air tastes of fire—of cooking—and her stomach rumbles as she longs for wine, a bite of pumpkin pie or desert watermelon.  She turns back in the night, coolness seeping through her feet as she tries to remember the spices pressed in her neighbor’s roasted lamb.  Lemon salt?  Cloves?  Her eyes move absently across stone and sand to the city.  Seeing, her mouth gapes, and while her neighbor’s house burns she freezes, caught, her hands suddenly granulated colder and paler than the stone. 
She cannot move, the feel of salt weighs so heavy in her mouth.

We had to read a section aloud.  This was a rule of the workshop.  And when I read this section--blushing the whole time, because reading my own writing out loud always makes me realize what could sound better--my teacher let out a yell right when I finished, pounding his fist on the table.  "Lot's wife!" he yelled.  "That's Lot's wife!"  Turns out he thought I'd included all these weird tales that I'd made up, but he was pleased as anything once he figured out I had a Biblical base for my weirdness (I'd also included Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, although, like Lot's wife, I never named her).  I've had instances like that as a reader, instances where I put things together and I think "Wow.  I should have seen that!"  (Brandon Sanderson does that a lot, including twists he's set up but I never see.)  Anyway, I'm a huge fan of that making-the-reader-feel-awesome idea, and I can deal with open endings to novels, if they're done well.  Like Ethan Canin's Carry Me Across the Water, which may end in sleep or in death.  Or Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, one of the most beautiful books I've ever read.  I'm tolerant of many things in literature, because I will always be an eclectic, omnivorous reader.

But I hate cliffhangers.

It feels like cheating.  I like cliffhangers before scene breaks.  I'm all for cliffhangers at the end of chapters.  But at the end of books? I pay for a whole story, thank you very much!  I like an ending with my beginning and my middle--and don't add a whole bunch of spicy starting-the-next-story-in-this-one sauce (although you can include some dark-hint-sprinkles, if you must).

Anyway.  I've rambled on long enough.  Perhaps I should go investigate that shadow that's been lurking just outside my window--that shadow that I completely didn't make up to cause this post to have a cliffhanger ending, because there's going to be a picture anyway....

This pillar is called Lot's Wife, and it really does exist near the Dead Sea.  Haunting, no?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ira Glass is wise

I like this quote, and because I am all burnt out from a Halloween carnival (oh, the cotton candy and the donuts and the root beer and the treats for every. single. game.) (which delight and beguile three-year-olds and one-year-olds and make their parents exhausted), I shall post this quote from Ira Glass in lieu of my own dubious wisdom:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

"But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. 

"And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


Monday, October 24, 2011


On Saturday I officially finished the second draft of my second novel.  And I think it's better than my first--even this early on, the middle hasn't given me near as many headaches.  Exciting! what should I do?

My first novel, for those who don't know, is currently under submission, and even though I've got some ideas for revising (it could always be better, right?), I've decided to wait on the fulls I have out before I do anything too drastic.  I should wait a few weeks before rereading my second novel, because...well, it's still too fresh, and waiting is usually a good idea.  Plus my wonderful critique partner is going at that draft, and her feedback will be exceptionally helpful.

So...hmm.  I could start a third novel, but I'm not certain I've got an idea solidified enough.  I could work on the business stuff (yay queries?), I could write a couple of short stories, I could actually spend some time learning new piano music or paint...but I've got to use my naptime-writingtime-golden-afternoon-hours for something creative.  Not grading!  No...not grading.

If anyone has any brilliant post-one-book-but-not-yet-ready-for-the-next-book ideas, let me know!  In the meantime, here is Night on Bald Mountain.  Because it is Halloween week (pretty much), and I love Night on Bald Mountain.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I like Fridays, especially Fridays like today: it's autumn, and we could crunch over leaves, but the sun made walking with a double stroller pleasant.  We got to talk about grasshoppers, and ants, and vultures.  I nearly finished the second draft of my second book.  And even though I really should grade some of that stack of essays I collected on Wednesday I'm still remembering the songs I sang with my three-year-old at bedtime, and I'm feeling content.

So here is Batman.  Because I must have an image, and I love Batman the Animated Series, and doesn't he just look happy? It must be Friday for him, too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I'm one of those people who sit down and write.  No outlines, at least on the first draft.  I've got a premise and some characters, and I see what happens as I go.  So that means, when I get to the end, I need to figure out how to tie everything together.  And I get sort of obsessive when I'm at an exciting part--I need to keep writing!  I need to see what happens!

I'm rewriting the end of my second book now.  And even though it's a second draft, and I do have a rough outline, I'm wanting to change things, to put them in words and see what happens next.  I want the end to be satisfying, though, exciting and scary and wonderful.  So here's a question: when (or if) you're writing a book, how would you do the end? How much do you outline? What books do you think have some of the best endings of all time?

I'm off to write some fiction now!

Our three-year-old is being Darth Vader for Halloween.  He wants our baby to be Yoda.  But this looks like a pretty cute costume, so we'll see...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Locked out

Well...we sort of locked ourselves out of our house today.  And the locksmith couldn't get us in, because our two doors were deadbolted.  We just got back in, because my most wonderful sister drove here with a spare key.  So, on the plus side, we get to play games tonight!  Also, we can remind people smarter than we are to hide a key, or have some sort of awesome break in plan, because if I could've broken in without smashing a window I would have felt pretty cool.

Anyway.  This calls for some Guy on a Buffalo.  He could've gotten us in!  Although I wouldn't want to pay for what he'd do...or clean up the stinky stuff a buffalo would leave behind...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My nose is numb, and the top of my mouth.  I love getting fillings.  Except really I hate it, and I am being ironic here.  Because there's that smell--burning-drilled tooth--and the spray from the squirter, and the high-pitched drill noise and the weird things they stick between your teeth that dig into your gums and make them bleed.

And the numbness.  Did I mention I'm numb?

Well, you don't have to feel your nose to enjoy big cats playing with pumpkins!  Our zoo's got tigers and cougars and snow leopards and lynxes--but this zoo's got a lot more.  Also, am I the only one thinking of how to use wonderful dental appointments in my writing the whole time I'm there? Inside my head I've got this interior monologue, like I wonder what that blue light thingy is called.  And tooth isn't exactly bone, is it? So this wouldn't be the smell of burning bone.  But I bet teeth and drills could be a really creepy detail in the right story.  And what if there were a villain who thought anyone with this limp numb-lip look was weak for needing anesthetic!  Would that be crazy? That would probably be crazy...

Anyway.  Sorry.  Cats.  Pumpkins.  Yay!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading and pumpkins

I love reading.  In fact, I have several new intriguing blogs I want to be reading right now.  Also, after buying pumpkins today (one for each member of the family), I also want to start designing a stencil for the one I picked.  Prior pumpkins I've carved have looked like this:

Okay, so the photography could be better--but that's The Count, the most lovable vampire ever
And this:

Okay, so this one's not carved.  But later I carved it into Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas.  I can't find those pictures--but look, a baby!  Awesome!
I guess all of this setup about pumpkins and such is my way of saying...I shall be off to read more blogs now.  And to take the pumpkins out of our car's trunk.  Whee?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pay It Forward

I may be a little late to the Pay It Forward blogfest, but I decided--better late than not at all!  My list:

The blog of one of my wonderful critique partners, a great romance writer and exceptionally kind person, the blog of Kristin Nelson, which may already be famous but is very encouraging and useful to first-time writers, and the blog of Shannon Hale, one of my favorite writers (and I think she's hilarious--I only met her once, and there was a pygmy goat at the reading, and her children, and her witty husband, but I did meet her, and she is funny and worth reading in book and blog form).

I love finding new blogs!  Reading is pretty much awesome.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lemony Snicket and Writing

I love this: in fact, I may illustrate it sometime.  It's a letter about writing, and the irony is beautiful and poetic and encouraging all at once...

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.
Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

–Lemony Snicket