I’m Not A Total Idiot: I Promise

I’m not a total idiot. At least not all the time.

Case in Point 1: I am a fairly decent mom and dogmom. After all, I have graduated two children and haven’t eaten my last two yet. (That was a joke, by the way.) I’ve also house broken more kids and dogs than I care to count. But…I can be a little too trusting at times. Take our Tiny Dog for an example. I was checking out new blog widgets and snacking on peas. Tiny Dog politely asked for one. I shared. She jumped off the chair, hopped back up and asked for another. And another. And another. It wasn’t until Youngest Son saw the conglomeration of nibbled-on peas in the middle of the floor that I realized I’d been duped. Tiny Dog was stockpiling her veggies.

I wasn’t being a total idiot. I was simply being more nurturing than was necessary. Unless, you don’t consider letting Youngest eat a partially masticated pea pod nurturing. Then I was just being stupid.

Case in Point 2: I have pretty good success with technology–or at least the basics of it–for someone who was born and raised in the dark ages. However, sometimes I have “aha” moments that are downright embarrassing. For instance, I didn’t know I could connect to another blog and have a snippet of a post show up on my sidebar. I’d seen other bloggers have these fancy little doodads, but could never figure out how to get my own. Of course, I’m claiming this is a new feature on this particular blog template since I revamped it a handful of years ago, which is why I didn’t notice it before.

But now that I’ve found it, I want to revamp my whole blog yet again. I mean, how many more cool things have I missed in my technological stupor? Seriously, check the sidebar for a glimpse of my kid blog…without actually having to go to my kid blog. Sweet, right? And it was actually pretty simple, too. I just didn’t know it.

Case in Point 3: Even though I don’t always know my way around technology, I’m a living map of sorts in the real world. I know road signs and street names instead of landmarks. I can tell north from south without a compass. But until two days ago, I had no idea that interstates were named in the most simplistic of all manners–a thought that had never occurred to me. Basically, Interstate numbering starts on the west coast and heads east. Likewise, the smallest numbered Interstates belong to the south and grow larger as you head north. I would go into detail, but my brain can’t hold all the nuances that Wikipedia can. If you are truly interested, click here for more details. I did, and got lost in the history of Freeways for so long I needed a map to find my way back to reality.

All this is to say that no matter how good we are at something, we can be incredibly dense at times. The reverse is true, as well.

In other words, we’re human. And that’s not a bad thing: I promise.

In A Handful Of Dust Book Giveaway and our technoligical plight

In the wake of Apple’s new watch unveiling, I got sucked into a world wide web of articles on technology. Eventually, my browsing led me to a story about autonomous driving and how easy it would be to hack the systems of these newest toys-in-the-making

Is anyone else troubled by the abundance of technology in our lives? Does anyone else pine for the pioneer days when you lived by your own doing and died by your own poor choices and laziness? Does anyone besides me think that having a lazy human behind the wheel of a vehicle is a bad idea?

I mean, seriously, one article boasted how the automatic system would hand over the controls to the driver if the car got into trouble it couldn’t handle alone, such as slamming on its brakes to avoid hitting a car in front of it. I don’t know about you, but braking seems like a pretty fundament part of driving. Needless to say, I see a huge flaw in this:

  • The driver relinquished control for a reason: he doesn’t want to pay attention to the mundane task of driving.
  • By applying logic, this means he is no longer an attentive driver of the vehicle, but rather a passive passenger sitting in front of the steering wheel.
  • Inattention requires time before reaction: said driver must be alerted to a problem via the car, he must then assess why the distress signal has been sent, then he must determine what needs to be done to avoid the peril of smashing into the car that just swerved into his lane.
  • By my calculation, way too much time has elapsed to allow the now-panicked driver to avoid the crash when Rosie the Robot could have simply stomped on the brakes solo.
  • Ie: autonomous cars seem MORE dangerous.
  • When you add up the time and financial costs of the wreck for rear-ending another car, Mr. Lazy Driver has wasted vast resources when he could have simply set his cruise and crooned to the radio–with hands on wheel, eyes on road and foot poised near the brake–during his morning commute.

Suddenly, autonomous driving doesn’t sound so convenient after all. Well, it never did… News flash: I like being in control of my own life. I don’t want 1984 to come to fruition. I like independent thinking and acting. I like making decisions and living with the consequences.

I don’t want to reside in a dystopian world unless it is one I’m reading about. Big Brother is for fiction. Or, at least, it used to be.

Throw in those hackers I was talking about, and I see chaos to the max. Pray tell, where do I sign up?

Not with Apple. I am not ready for personal technology that is controlled by private companies, can be shared with the government and stolen by hackers. I’ll keep my pulse to myself and get in my own car accidents, thank you.

I will also continue to read survival novels by author Mindy McGinnis, where nature is a force to be reckoned with, technology is limited. and human interactions are tenuous at best. In a Handful of Dust is due to hit  bookshelves on September 23, 2014. It’s the companion novel to her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink.

Follow me to Mindy’s blog to save on your e-copy of Drink (a steal at $1.99) and to enter a chance to win one of five free copies of Dust!

What kinds of technology can’t you live with, and what can’t you live without? How do you feel about technology driven novels?

Curious minds want to know.

Cleaning Bathrooms Is Exactly Like Editing

I have three boys, which means lots of resident testosterone. Add in friends, and the testosterone count increases exponentially. Throw in one daughter with finger nail polish, make up and ponytail holders to spice things up. Now you’ve got a glimpse into my house. As you can imagine, bathrooms quickly become a place I detest while maintaining a firm spot at the top of my TLC list. I can clean and clean and clean again, and yet every time I walk into a bathroom, I could clean it once again. Toothpaste on the mirror (how the heck does it get there?), soap scum in the sink, empty shampoo bottles, emptier toilet paper rolls and overflowing wastebaskets. Not to mention the toilet. I walk out, and someone else walks in. Scrub, restock, repeat.

Same with editing. No matter how many times I revise, rework and edit, my manuscript is never perfect. It just looks that way until the next time I pick it up.

Tiring: yes. Frustrating: even more so. Worth it? Heck yeah.

I just scrubbed my middle grade manuscript this weekend. It required a little picking up, not a major cleansing. Now to send it off to my editor, which is a bit like inviting the proverbial mother-in-law into the bathroom with a white glove…

What do you love about editing? What do you hate about it?

Curious minds want to know!

When Life Gives You Lemons, It’s Okay To Cry

Moving Dear Daughter into college last week was difficult at best. Watching parents hug their kids goodbye and climb into their vehicles with tears in their eyes was too common to count. It was the rare student who did a fist pump as his family rounded the corner and drove away. Mostly, it was a day filled with hastily wiped cheeks, glassy eyes and runny noses. Neither DD nor I were immune to the blues. Heck, we’d had coffee together every morning and shared lunch nearly every afternoon for her last two years of high school.

I know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but I firmly believe it’s okay to cry about those lemons first. Denying our emotions is just as bad as, if not worse than, ignoring everything that happens after someone hands you a bushel of lemons. Validating our pain and fear and frustration is helpful. It allows us to move on. It’s only when we suppress those feelings that we end up with a sour life in the long run.

Bad things happen. Sad things happen. That’s okay. In fact, those experiences are what give us a refreshing perspective on the rest of our lives. They allow us to appreciate the lemonade.

Dear writer friends, please remember this post when you pen the life journey of your MCs. Know that we must put them through a little pain and discomfort. Let them hurt. Let them cry. Then give them the strength to carry on and overcome.

Same to you, parents. We can’t protect our children from everything, and we shouldn’t even try. They must learn to live despite falling down.

What life lemons have been sent your way? How do you validate someone’s feelings when you would rather tell them to suck it up?

Curious minds want to know.

Survival of the Fittest: what’s your writing adaptability

This morning Dear Hubby packed for yet another work trip. After several years of packing and unpacking and forgetting and remembering certain items, you’d think he’d have it down pat. But alas, he says to me just before heading out, “I almost forgot my running shoes again.”

DH is a workout fanatic. He likes to work out hard, pushing himself to the next level and then the next. Because of this, Shawn T is a big name around our house. We have a love/hate relationship with him. I hate him, and DH loves him. Insane, yes, I know. But despite DH’s go-get-em attitude, he has one teeny, tiny flaw. He has plantar fasciitis so bad he can barely walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without his inserts in. Shoe wearing is a must nearly every minute of the day.

Me, however, I have perfect arches. I’ve tackled Shawn T in my bare feet. I stairmaster shoeless and have even been known to attempt to run on the treadmill sans footwear.

Needless to say, these differences led to a conversation about how DH would have never survived in ancient times. We giggled over the outcome of what this would have looked like back in the day. In particular, because we always joke that if a bear was chasing us, DH would only have to outrun me to save himself–an easy endeavor on any given day, as I don’t run. Period. That said, I wouldn’t need to run fast or far if we were in a barefoot race, because my buff hubby and his plantar fasciitis would take the finish line last every time.

This, ironically, is a conversation I’ve had with my big sister in times past. She’s legally blind and can’t even see herself in the mirror to put her contacts in, while I have 20/20 vision. “If we lived in the wild,” she’s been known to say, “our parents would have eaten me so they’d have more energy to save you.”

Guess what, writers? There’s survival of the fittest in the literary world, too. As writers, we all have fatal flaws that can kill us off before we ever get started. Triumphing in the publishing wilderness takes savvy, perseverance, talent, time, patience, motivation, huge pots of coffee, refusal to succumb to a little pain and learning to flourish despite it. We must be flexible and able to adapt to the changing market, to our own down falls and to the obstacles that get put in our way.

Survival of the fittest is a brutal process that we face each day in writing and in life.

But, as my Dear Hubby so eloquently says, “I only need to outrun you.”

In reality, sometimes the only person we need to outrun is ourselves.

Do you have what it takes to survive? What are your fatal flaws and how have you overcome them?

Curious minds want to know.

WordPress Impressed: Where do you blog?

My sister-in-law and I were talking the other day about websites. She has started a business with a talented girlfriend of hers and commented that they needed a website, but couldn’t afford one right now. As a writer with two names for my two types of writing, I know my way around blogs/websites. I’ve been on them (hit and miss) for nearly five years now. I’ve also helped other small businesses design user friendly sites of their own.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the world’s most-or-even-close-to tech savvy gal around, but I do know a thing or two about what makes some servers more user friendly and/or professional than others. It’s because of this familiarity that I recommended WordPress for all her small business needs.

And before I hear a chorus of, “But you haven’t been blogging for eternity”, I would like to say that re-immersing myself with the social media world in the past weeks has actually made me appreciate the intuitive nature of WordPress all the more. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of WP at the moment is their new posting feature that allows me to hop back and forth between my kid blog and this blog so easily. LOVE IT.

“But wait,” you say. “You said website. What you have is two blogs. NOT the same thing.”

I can assure you that because of my YA writing, I am very familiar with WP as a static website and absolutely adore my webpage for it’s clean professional look that is easy to update when necessary. And yes, I have a different website for my kid books through Wix which isn’t nearly as easy to navigate–for either the designer or the viewer–as my WP one is. I also blog on two separate blogs with blogger and have a hate/hate relationship with them.

So, while I haven’t been the most consistent social media guru in the past six months, I do have some practical experience with the cyber realm of websites and blogs. Hands down, WordPress wins.

But don’t just believe me. If you’re looking into all web options, please consider this: the powers that be at AgentQuery Connect advise writers that the most intuitive and cheapest services out there is none other than WP–all without compromising on quality and professionalism.

So, what’s in your cyber wallet? Who do you blog with and where do you park your permanent dot com? Feel free to share the things you hate or love about the different servers.

Curious minds want to know.

Stepping Up and Stepping Out: introducing my kid blog

Social media has a big mouth. In fact, I wonder who even uses the Yellow Pages anymore when trying to track down garbage companies, book stores or city offices. Instead, we turn to Google and let our fingers do the tapping. I have to admit that as a writer, this can be both daunting and unbelievably useful. In fact, I was recently contacted by a coordinator looking for authors to present at a young writer’s conference. She found me online. 

It was great, but it would have been better if I’d been keeping up with my social media like we authors are supposed to. And that’s the daunting part. Social media can take up lots of time, and its easy to run out of material. Which got me thinking. I am a kidlit writer. I love writing for kids. So why don’t I have a kid blog?

To answer, blogs take time. Blogs require maintenance. Successful blogs require readers. Do kids even read blogs?

Good question. And I suppose the answer is, we will see.

As I begin booking speaking gigs at schools and libraries in anticipation of the release of my middle grade novel, I thought now would be a good time to have a cyber spot for kids to land. Hence, I took a monumental step and created a blog for kids: Cat 4 Kids.

My goal is to fill it with quick, yet important stuff for middle grade kids (which translates in the literary arena to ages 7ish through 12ish) depending on maturity and interest level. I hope to blog three or more days a week, all while keeping kids needs, fears, worries, wants and desires as well as core classroom curriculum, in mind.

So, if you are a kid, know a kid, love a kid, teach a kid, write for kids or just like kid stuff, you can hop on over to catwoodskids.com. Please feel free to share my link with other parents, teachers or librarians who might like a fun cyber place to send their kids.  

Also, if you’re a teacher, librarian or coordinator who hosts authors, please keep me in mind.

  • Teachers: do you follow any blogs in your classroom that are written for kids? If so, which ones?
  • Parents: how do you help your children find sites that are not only game-focused, but also educational to get them in the habit of reading and learning on their own?
  • Writers: have you tried a kid-specific blog for the younger age group? If so, how has it worked for you?

Curious minds want to know.