Friday, January 27, 2012

The Leaning Tree

There's a Douglas Fir tree in our pasture that amazes me. While we've lost other trees in severe windstorms (see my post right here) - this tree, although leaning at an awkward angle, still stands. In fact, if you look closely at the top, it's growing towards the light, trying to right itself.

I think about this tree a lot, how much it has withstood - how many storms it has lived through, how much snow and wind and rain and sleet it's been battered with (we had a foot and a half of snow here last week.) How many birds have built nests and raised families in its shelter? How much shade has it provided for cows, horses, and donkeys that stand underneath it on hot days? How many squirrels and cats have run up its crooked branches? Yet still it stands.

When you're going through bad times, whether it be rejections, or divorce, or death, or just everyday annoyances, think about the old Leaning Tree.

Even if you're tired or leaning or feel like you're growing crooked some days, hang in there, and keep Growing Towards the Light.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flying with your Nook - and your Book

Just returned from a mini-vacation which involved a three hour flight each way. I do fly fairly often, but this was the first time with my brand new Nook Color.

I was excited! I loaded it up with a bunch of a books for the trip. Some I purchased, and some I downloaded from the library. I was so ready!!

Here's what I learned:
  • Make sure you fully charge your Nook, or Kindle, or eReader before your trip. Turn your wireless settings off, so it won't use too much power or interfere with the pilot, you know, flying the plane.
  • When you go through security, you still have to take your laptop out of your bag and place it in a separate tray (so annoying.) But not your Nook! In fact, so many people must have been flying with their new eReaders that the security guards kept announcing "Nooks and Kindles can stay in your bags."
  • If you are a nose-in-your-book, introverted reading nerd like I am, take along a paper book, too. I packed a lightweight paperback that I read during take-off and landing. But once you're in the air, you are fine to turn your electronic device on (power up that Nook or Kindle) and read the great story you are into! Or finish a piece of short fiction, because you have so many loaded on your Nook. Or read magazines. Newspapers. You have a whole library to browse through, so pick whatever you are in the mood to read!
Want to know the two books I read (concurrently) on the trip?

On the Nook, I'm reading REVOLUTION, by Jennifer Donnelly, which is a captivating novel weaving together stories of two teenage girls that live 200 years apart, one in present day and one during the French revolution. I felt like a teenager myself when the steward told me to "power off all electronics" as we started our descent, and I read really fast until I finished the chapter I was on.

I also had along a paperback titled THE CALL: A Novel, by Yannick Murphy, an unusually-told book about a veterinarian and his family, which I read during take-off and landing.

One year ago, I was one of those people who insisted that I only liked paper books. Real books, I called them.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I've changed. I love my Nook. I love reading on my Nook (I can turn it sideways and prop it up!) and I'll grab it anytime I have to travel, as long as I have electricity and a place to plug it in. I'm getting too damn old to backpack, but if I do, I'll take a couple of paperbacks. But for me, for now, it's my Nook, my Nook, my Nook!

Have you flown with your eReader yet?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meet Mindy Hardwick

I am happy to welcome to the blog Northwest author Mindy Hardwick, whose debut novel STAINED GLASS SUMMER just came out from Musa Publishing. (P.S. I've read it and it's wonderful!)

Mindy – How did you first come up with the idea for Stained Glass Summer? The initial conflict seems to be between 12-year-old Jasmine and her father, who she idolizes. How did this scenario come to you?

The idea for STAINED GLASS SUMMER happened when an artist friend gave me a couple pieces of broken glass she found in a dumpster. The story was originally called, Jewels from the Dumpster, and Jasmine had an alcoholic Mom. However, in my first workshop at Vermont College, Ron Koertge said, “Alcoholic mothers are a dime a dozen, change it.” It was hard to hear, but what he went on tell me was don’t go with the first idea. The first idea is usually known or predictable. Keep pushing the envelope and ask What If. I followed his directions, and Jasmine’s Father was created!

Did you know anything about creating stained glass before you wrote this book? Or did you learn about it during the process of writing it?
During the research process, I took a class in stained glass. I had a really hard time! I’ve always been a little spatially challenged, and cutting the pieces exactly to fit the pattern was really hard for me. But, those little sun catchers that we made in class ended up in STAINED GLASS SUMMER. 
The idea of mentoring plays a pivotal role in this novel. Are you involved in mentoring, Mindy? Tell us a little about this, and how your feelings about being a mentor, or having a mentor, seep into your writing.
STAINED GLASS SUMMER is about Jasmine learning to define herself as an artist, and I think mentoring is a key part of being an artist—any type of artist. The artistic path is a journey, and on a journey, there is always a mentor who meets you at the first “doorway” and walks with you on your path. 
I am a mentor in the Volunteers of America Children of Promise Program. I have been matched for one year and my mentee and I do lots of fun things together every month. We’ve gone bowling, decorated a cake, and she came with me to pick up my new puppy, Stormy.  Faith and I did an interview on the Euterpe YA blog that can be seen here:
I also run a poetry workshop with youth in juvenile detention. You can see some of the teen poems on their blog at:  Although I don’t see the youth outside of the detention program, I feel as if I am their writing mentor in the poetry workshop. 
What was the most difficult part about writing Stained Glass Summer?
I had a hard time finding the right age for the story. Jasmine began as a fifteen-year-old edgy character. As I revised the manuscript, her age moved downward, but everyone was still calling it young adult. The problem was when I went to try and sell the book, it was too quiet for young adult. I kept seeing the story as tween—a good story for kids in the middle school years (6th-8th) grade.  Finally, after a couple of close calls in selling it, I sent the manuscript to be critiqued by freelance editor, Sarah Cloots. She called it an upper middle grade and suggested the story be called, STAINED GLASS SUMMER. In that revision, I changed Jasmine to be twelve and Cole to be thirteen. Once I made those changes, the story seemed to fall into place easily.  

Stained Glass Summer, your debut novel, is being published first as an eBook. How do you feel about this? Do you read eBooks regularly? If so, do you see any difference between reading on an eReader vs. a print book?
I’ve been reading e-books for a couple of years. I heard Angela James speak at an RWA Conference in Seattle about e-books. She showed us her e-readers and I was hooked! I love having STAINED GLASS SUMMER published as an e-book. It feels like this is the exact right time for e-books!
One of my favorite characters in the novel is five-year-old Sammy, who at the beginning serves as a foil for Jasmine. Later, learning more about Sammy becomes a way for Jasmine to learn more about herself. Is Sammy modeled after anyone you know?
Sammy is modeled after a picture book character that I wrote (but haven’t sold yet). I was drafting my picture books at the same time I was writing STAINED GLASS SUMMER, and Sammy’s personality showed up in both stories!
And last question, do you have anything else in the works, Mindy? Any other projects you’d like to share with us?
My young adult romance novel, WEAVING MAGIC, will be published on April 27, 2012.  Here is a brief summary:
He loves magic. She loves romance. But the biggest illusion is the one Shantel and Christopher tell each other. Sixteen-year-old Shantel and Christopher are falling in love, while failing to deal with some serious issues. Christopher’s feelings about his father’s imprisonment and Shantel’s feelings about her mother’s suicide are smothered beneath blankets of denial and addiction. Even though Christopher attends AA, and is trying to stay sober, the unacknowledged roots of their problems refuse to stay buried, and soon, the two are headed toward a disastrous magic trick which sends Christopher to juvenile detention and forces both of them to move beyond magical illusions to find true love.
Wow. Sounds like you are one busy lady, Mindy. Thank you so much for stopping by to share your story and tell us about your books.
To learn more about Mindy Hardwick, follow these links:
Twitter: @mindyhardwick
and to buy the book (it will be available at all major online booksellers soon) here are two links:
Oh, did I mention the book has a great setting in the San Juan Islands of Washington State? Yeah, that too!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Case of the Missing Collar

As some of you may remember, we own the Best Dog in the World.

His name is Homer.

And because we love Homer so much, we thought he was lonely, so we got him a friend.

Now this new dog is a Work-in-Progress, and we are at the moment going through a round of

Difficult Edits.

Her name is Penny.

Ah, she was such an adorable puppy. But her teenage months were filled with digging, chewing, destroying, acting out and generally being hard to live with. Like most teenagers.

She is getting better. Slowly. But she still has one annoying habit we haven't been able to break her of.

She takes Homer's collar off. In their daily wrestling matches, she grabs hold of his collar and tugs it right off his head.

And of course, then I have to find it, because a dog can't go around without his collar and identification tags, right?

Well, one day, I could not find Homer's black collar. But it was old anyway, and the tags were hard to read, so after a day or two of searching Every. Square. Inch. of the yard (did she bury it?) I broke down and bought Homer a Brand New Blue Collar. Like this:

and I sprung for some new tags with Homer's name on them, and he looked spiffy. Almost like a young dog again. Plus, we'd be able to find this collar easily if Penny took it off his head.

So, of course, after I spent close to twenty dollars on a new collar for Homer, guess what mysteriously turns up on the concrete right outside of our garage?

Yes. You are correct. The old black collar was suddenly lying on the concrete, right there in plain sight.

Great, I thought (not quite understanding how it got there.) But I put it in the cupboard to use for a spare, in case the new blue collar mysteriously disappeared. Which it did, the very next day!!

So I put the old black collar, with the old tags back on Homer, and this is the routine we follow, day in and day out - find Homer without collar, look for collar, put collar back on.

Sidenote: The new twenty dollar blue collar (including identification tags) has never been found . . .

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy 2012, Everyone!

This will be an exciting year for me. Beside promoting my newest book, THE GIRL WHO REMEMBERED HORSES, and working on a sequel, I have two more eBooks coming out this year from Musa Publishing.

I bet you think they're about horses, don't you?

Well, actually, they're not. But they both encompass the theme that seeps into all of my writing - the bond between humans and animals. (And this first book does have two old rescue horses in it.)

SIX DEGREES OF LOST, with a release date of June 2012, is a contemporary novel set in the Pacific Northwest. It's told in alternating voices of the two main characters - Olive and David.

Olive’s mother is headed to jail and her brother to join the Army, so thirteen-year-old Olive is uprooted from sunny California and dumped in Washington State like a stray, which is exactly what she feels like surrounded by her aunt’s collection of homeless dogs, cats, and horses. Fourteen-year-old David’s future is already carved in stone. From a military family with two brothers serving overseas, he’s been pointed towards the Air Force Academy his entire life - but a rafting trip gone awry and a burning hay barn might ruin his chances. When a runaway dog dashes into the road and is almost hit by a car, the search for its owners leads Olive and David, two kids from entirely different backgrounds, to an unlikely bond. Will their growing attraction to each other be enough to keep Olive from a foolhardy journey to find her mother? Will David risk his family’s plans and honor to save her?

WALKING THE DOG has a tentative release date from Musa of September 2012. Here's a short blurb about this novel:

Jared is smitten when his teacher seats the new girl, Sophie, right next to him. Even with the scar running up the side of her face, Jared thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the entire sixth grade. But why did she transfer here so late in the year? Rumors say something bad happened to her.

Jared and Sophie develop a friendship while walking the guidance counselor’s new therapy dog, but Jared’s overprotective parents are not happy with this arrangement. Besides, ever since his younger brother’s accident, Jared is supposed to keep an eye on Petey. But little brothers can be pests. First Petey lets the orange cat loose at the animal shelter where Jared and Sophie have been secretly meeting. Then Petey turns up missing. Will Jared’s parents unravel his elaborate lies and make him do community service at the senior center? What will Jared do when Sophie shows up there, afraid to go home?

So 2012 will be a busy and exciting year for me. I'll be writing, revising, talking about my books, blogging, and hoping to find time for a little exercise and fun somewhere in there, also.

What about you? What do you have planned for 2012?