Sunday, October 4, 2015

Last 200 Words - October

Okay, I'm totally cheating. As you know, I quit doing the WIP Marathon reports because of all the reasons I explained in this post. But I'll admit it, I'm still itching to post a tiny bit of progress, especially when...well...I'm actually making progress (now's a good time to mention that my idea of "progress" is moving up by a mere K or two a month, and that pitiful word counts are my modus operandi). So while I can't commit to writing full-fledged WIP Marathon reports once a month, I've decided that when all of the WIP Marathoners post their reports, I'm going to simply post my last 200 words. I'll also mention how many words I've added this month. Unless it's pathetic. Then I'll conveniently forget and leave that part off.

Word Count for October: Around 10K of Black Lilies. No, I didn't do that all in one month. This is my TOTAL word count since I started the novel LAST WINTER. I'm in bad shape here.

Last 200 Words:

“Don’t patronize me. I’m not a child. And I’ll tell you my name as soon as you tell me what’s going on.” I crossed my arms and stepped back in a show of defiance, accidentally dropping the assignment that was crumpled in my hand. Moving quickly, I reached down to pick it up.
“What’s that?” he asked, leaning forward to look at the paper.
“It’s my ‘lesson’, as you like to call it,” I bit out. “It’s what I’m supposed to be working on right now, but now I will get a zero because of your little impromptu performance of the Star Spangled Banner.”
He squinted his eyes, examining it closer. “Let me see that.”
Why would he want my paper? There was barely anything written on it. I shrugged. “Here.”
I tried to hand it to him, but he didn’t move to take it. Instead, he tilted his head, as if trying to get a better view. His already pale-face turned white, and his bright eyes grew wide. “I know this writing.”
He jerked back, his fists clenched at his side.
“Tell me your name, clever girl.” 
I stood silent. 
“It’s you, isn’t it? You’re Aviva.” 
My mouth fell open, and he disappeared.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nothing Says Happy Birthday Like Tasty Crickets

My birthday was a little over a week ago, and I have to say that this one was pretty wonderful. That morning when my students were entering first period, they loaded me up with brownies and birthday cards, and they sang to me. Horribly of course, but it was so freakin' sweet. I was stumped, wondering how they figured out it was my birthday. I found out later that Mr. Moore (my mischievous retired-teacher-friend) was subbing on our campus that week and had spilled the beans. I gave him an earful when I found out. Except for it was more like an eye-full since it was via texting.

Later that morning, Teri swung by my work and had a large caramel iced coffee from Jack in the Box delivered to my classroom. I guess that doesn't sound like a big deal, but the caramel-flavored one is my favorite, and it's been discontinued. She had to drive all the way to the Jack in the Box by the freeway to find a place that still had a little bit of the caramel syrup left. She also bought me two additional large coffees--sans the ice--and poured them into a bottle for me, so I could luxuriate in my favorite iced coffee a little longer before I lost them forever. 

When I came home from work, Clint, who likes to torture me with the present-opening process, made me work to win my gifts. I was given thirty seconds to run through the backyard and shoot as many clay pigeons as I could. Each clay pigeon had a gift taped to the inside. The catch was I had to watch out for "whammies"--clay pigeons that had "unconventional" gifts taped to them. The game was a blast (no pun intended). My favorite gift I won was this:



I think I about hyperventilated. I've been wanting some kind of gumball machine for my classroom for awhile, but this far exceeded anything I had imagined. Since I can't keep gum or candy in it (against school rules), Clint stuffed it with pencil toppers and miniature erasers. My students LOVE this thing. Clint got the machine from a company in China that manufactures candy dispensers for businesses, and he got all of the pencil toppers and erasers from Oriental Trading Company. Since he stuck with bulk items that were being clearanced out, each eraser ended up costing about two cents. When students put a quarter in, they get anywhere from 4 to 10 erasers. I'm planning to use the "profit" to buy more erasers.

Unfortunately, I did hit two whammy gifts. Whammy gift #1 landed me with three boxes of dehydrated crickets. On the plus side they came in a nice assortment of flavors (sour cream and onion, bacon and cheddar, and salt and vinegar). I gave them to students as prizes. I made a super big deal about it. "Now whoever does the best job on today's presentation wins a highly coveted, amazing prize. It's.....drumroll please.....some delicious crickets! Never say I don't love you." By the time Monday rolled around, my students were wondering what else they could do to win crickets, and I had to give them the bad news that we had run out. Seventh graders are awesome. 

Here's whammy gift #2:






This is Amelia. She's a Brittany--a hunting dog (primarily bird hunting). Clint and Elijah got their hunting licenses last month, and Clint's been pestering me ever since that he wants a hunting dog. One of the groups he and Elijah joined, Quail Forever, basically requires a hunting dog for their outings. You can always group up with others who have a dog, but it's not quite the same as having your own. While I understood all this, we already had three dogs. There was NO WAY IN HELL I was signing up for a fourth. So I told Clint that he was going to have to wait until Cricket (our nearly-11-year-old Corgi) passed away before getting his dog. 

Then I hit that stupid whammy. Which was clearly marked with a 'W', by the way. If I had hit the other two whammies, I would have ended up with a McDonalds frappuchino and a hug. BUT NO. I scored some crispy crickets and a damn dog. Yay me.

To be fair, I don't really notice the difference between three dogs and four. I think by the time you reach three you're already so saturated with mammals that adding one more into the mix is barely noticeable. Plus Clint's doing all the work of training her, so it's not so bad. Amelia is playful and super affectionate, and she's making it difficult to not like her.

Still, if we don't reign this pet-thing in soon, this is going to be us by next year:


(Clint texted me this photo the other day and I couldn't stop giggling)

Seriously, our household is a zoo. If there was ever any doubt, this is what I was dealing with while trying to read in the backyard this morning:


Tipsy and Fable--our obtrusive geese who are still struggling with the concept of personal space.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tumbleweed Days

So I ran a Chasing Echoes booth at our local Hesperia Tumbleweed Days this weekend! (I'm doing a great job of keeping my locations anonymous). This is my...third event now? My entire family hung out with me all day, helping me with my booth and giving me emotional support. Shannon was amazing. I think she single-handedly sold 80% of my books. My mom was pretty awesome too, pulling people in to watch the trailer. How am I this blessed? Anyway, here are a few pictures:












(This guy makes me feel tiny)

It was a great day (though by the end of it I was wiped out), and Tumbleweed Lakes is such a wonderful place to run a booth. There are so many trees that even at 95 degrees it never felt too hot. At least, not the kind of hot where you're seeing mirages out in the desert and stuff. Unlike my damn fever, where I was hallucinating that Voldemort from Harry Potter was trying to eat me in my sleep.

Okay, I need to let that whole fever thing go. But it was brutal, guys. B-R-U-T-A-L.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chasing Echoes Trailer

Last week I asked Trinity, "What can I bribe you with to get you to make a trailer for Chasing Echoes?"

She immediately replied, "Sushi."

The girl is 15 years old, and she wants sushi. Whatever happened to pizza with extra cheese?

Anyway, I agreed to her terms, and here is the sweet little 90 second trailer Trinity created (be sure your volume is up):


On a related note, sushi ended up costing me $58, so I probably should have pushed for that pizza.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer Catch-Up

Look, I'm writing a post you guys. It's a post!

I went through a massive blog drought over summer. I can't explain why, since summer should be when I finally feel the freedom to write. But right from the onset I knew I didn't want to even look at my blog.

There's so much to talk about from this summer...it would make for a very long and boring post (and still might). So I'm just going to abbreviate the main things that happened:

  • Grandma's Ashes: I flew to Cushing, Oklahoma to deliver my grandmother's ashes to her hometown. I made the trip with my half-sister Sarah. We stayed in a lovely hotel suite, swam at an awesome pool, enjoyed some nice dinners, had a little girl-time at the local bars, and met a lot of really cool people. Very memorably experience.
  • My Niece Graduated! I guess this doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was for me. Not only am I close to my niece Cassidi, but she's the first of my and Shannon's kids to graduate. It makes me feel weepy--to think she's all grown up now, and sort of marks a new era. 
  • Clint's Knee Surgery: Clint had knee surgery the first week of July and is out of work until October. The first week he couldn't walk and I learned what it feels like to do everything.
  • Jamboree Days: I ran a Chasing Echoes booth in Crestline selling my books and some other related stuff (see here). It was fun! The only caveat was I was supposed to do the booth for two days, but I only lasted for one day before getting totally wiped out. In my defense, I was staying at my sister's house that weekend and her entire household (including my kids) were still up running around at 1:30 a.m., on a night that I was supposed to get up at 6:30 in the morning. Plus it was the 4th of July, so we were up watching fireworks and celebrating. And I had a crippled hubby who couldn't help me with the heavy-lifting.
  • Comic-Con: Comic-Con was immensely fun--even better than last year (even with Clint on crutches--which he turned into assault rifles, by the way).
  • Camping: This almost didn't happen due to Clint's parent's RV breaking down. But after spending over twelve hours fixing it, we ditched our original plans of camping in Oregon and, instead, found a beautiful campground outside of Lake Tahoe called "Snowflower." I could do an entire post just on that. It was gorgeous.
  • Monopoly Tournament: Elijah participated in the Juniors Monopoly Tournament on the world's largest Monopoly board in San Jose. He didn't win, but the experience was awesome! We all stayed at the Hilton. Clint's parents were trapped in their room the morning of the tourney when their deadlock broke. Maintenance couldn't get them out, so they were forced to climb out the window onto the roof, down an emergency escape, and through a service door to get back to the lobby. I wish I was making this up.
  • Dog Beach: I went to a dog beach for the first time with Shannon, Jeremy, my parents, and all the kids. A dog beach is just like a regular beach...with dogs.
  • Ringworm: My whole family (except for Elijah) came home from camping with ringworm. I still have scars. 
  • Writing: I didn't get a lick of writing done.
  • Art: I drew with charcoal for the first time! And I dabbled with oil pastels too. I LOVE charcoal. My goodness where has this been my whole life? Here are my first two drawings: 



I have a ton of other pictures from summer but I'm too lazy to find/organize them.

That's about it. Now I'm back to work. We're in week 4, actually. It already feels like it's going so fast. And of course I've already slipped up in the classroom. Last week I told the class "In today's society you just don't see balls anymore." Of course we were talking about the setting for Cinderella, but it didn't matter--the class was howling (7th graders. *sigh*). Today I was tempted to play AC/DC's Big Balls to the class, since, like me, he's talking about parties and dances (ha!), but I thought that might be a little over the top.

Okay, a real song now. You've heard it before...it's pretty popular. When I focus too hard on the lyrics, it makes me sob like a baby.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Products Inspired by Your Book

The Chasing Echoes Sweat Shop is underway! As I mentioned in my last post, my mother in-law and I are making crafty-type products to go along with my book in an effort to give my author's booth a more homespun feel for my upcoming mountain events.

EVERY author should do this you guys. Just for the mere fun of it. Even if no one buys any of this crap (albeit pretty crap), the process is making me fall in love with my book all over again.

So, here is what we have so far. DRUM ROLL PLEASE...........Fine, no drum roll. 


Chasing Echoes Stationery

All-occasion cards hand-stamped to represent each of the Aevos sisters. From left to right: Topaz (Fall), Phoenix (Summer), Krystal (Winter), and Aviva (Spring). Gift-packaged in a set of four with seasonal charm.


Chasing Echoes Soaps


Handcrafted organic soaps--a different scent and style to represent each of the Aevos' sisters. Scents include Topaz Apple, Aviva Gardenia, Phoenix Energy, and Krystal Rain. Each handmade soap comes gift-packaged with seasonal charm. LOVE these--they smell incredible! 


Sands of Time Charms & Trinkets

Corked glass bottles on leather cords. Each bottle contains an hourglass charm, which has "burst" to release the same substance from Taz's necklace--the Sands of Time. I'm also making figurine-versions of these with little tags or scrolls that explain the legend of the Sands of Time. Here they are so far, minus the scrolls.

 The super-sized version. Or maybe just a close-up. 

So there you have it. For the record I am NOT trying to start a business selling Chasing Echoes products. I teach for a living--that's enough of a livelihood for me. These little crafts were simply designed to add more unrefined charm to my author's booth at outdoor events, and pull away from that look of stiff professionalism that you see at a lot of author's tables. I'll post pictures of my booth all put together in a future post. Until then, I challenge any author reading this to make one "product" to go along with your book (assuming you're like me with nothing better to do over summer but indulge in this kind of nonsense). Even if you have no intention of selling or displaying said-item, do it because a) It's fun, and b) It re-lights that fire for your novel.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ready, Aim, Fire

This weekend I became a certified archery instructor!


 My first time firing the Genesis bow





Mr. Bales and me with our certification cards

The class was in Wheatland, CA, which is about a seven and-a-half hour drive from where I live (eight hours plus if you figure in stops for gas and food). Clint and I, along with a teaching colleague of mine, Mr. Bales, left right after work on Friday, arrived to our motel around midnight, and started the training the next morning. 

The class was awesome. I came into the class being a tiny bit familiar with archery, but my experience was limited to the compound bow with a peep sight and scope, set at about 42 lbs. The bows we're required to use for NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) are Genesis bows, which are also compound, but have no peep sight, no scope, and are only set to 11 to 20 lbs. So in addition to having to learn how to set up and run an archery range (including all of the safety rules/regulations), I had to learn the techniques for shooting a bow that I'm completely unfamiliar with. Did you know there are ELEVEN steps to shooting a bow? Here was the nemonic device I made up so I could remember all of the steps for the test: 
Sassy naked damsels boast proudly during an afternoon salsa routine Friday.
Seriously, I need to trademark that baby. ;) It stands for: Stance, nock arrow, draw handset, bow handset, pre-draw, draw, anchor, aim, release, follow-through. Someone was paid the big bucks to make all that up. If I was in charge over at NASP, I'd have three steps: 
Ready. Aim. Fire.
Anyway, we were also required to learn all of the different parts of a bow, and how to do common bow repairs. It was total information overload...by the end of the training my brain felt numb. But I also came out of it on a high, because I feel like I learned SO much (I ended up scoring a 96% on my practicals, and man did it take everything out of me). At this point, I honestly think I could set up an entire archery range and run an event with confidence.

While all of this was going on, my son was participating in the Monopoly Championship Tournament eight hours away, which resulted in me doing a lot of hyperventilating, squealing, and screaming while trying to shoot targets and memorize that the top cam of the bow is called the "idler wheel." I'm dying to write more about this whole Monopoly thing on this post, but it's way too cool and special, so I think I'll save it for the next one.

Cross your fingers for me now that our grant through NASP goes through, because I really, really want to get this archery program going for the new school year!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Murder Mystery Dinner

My daughter is 15 today. 15! I'm not old enough to have a 15 year old. I'M NOT. 

Shut-up.


Anyway, she's having a Murder Mystery Dinner in our backyard. They've been at it for about an hour and 45 minutes. I'm allowed to take pictures, but she says I'm not allowed to break the 3rd wall--or is it the 4th?--some drama-term where I can't shatter the illusion of the drama they're enacting. It's like Juliet dramatically crying out "Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo?" and someone else cutting in with "Hey, fifth period is almost over." 


So we agreed I would just pop in and out as an investigative reporter. Here's all that my investigative snooping has yielded so far:



Guests starting to suspect each other

Let the interrogations begin

A very suspicious dinner


It's pretty cool, actually. Every time I go out there, they're totally in character (save some giggling and laughing). There was one moment where I lit the candles on the table and Trin was all "Wow, thank you, uh, Investigative Reporter, for lighting our candles. That's so nice and...unexpected." But you know, apparently I'm both an investigative reporter and a thoughtful candle-lighter-person.

I was going to write more but Trin just burst in here saying they solved their murder! Apparently Papa Vido killed Barry Underwood because he was promised land or something... They're popping open their victory champagne now (aka: sparkling cider) and then we're doing birthday cake. The cake is an adorable, partially decapitated jackalope (made by Teri). Jackalopes are somehow related to murder mysteries, right?


--------


Just came back from singing Happy Birthday. Here are the last few pictures for the night:








That poor torched jackalope.

Happy Birthday to my little girl! The one who is now four inches taller than me and could easily kick my ass. But she's still, and always, my baby girl, and I don't care if that's a cliché, because it's true.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I Want to Write about Twitchy Boobs and Stuff

I've been thinking about quitting my blog for awhile now. And then, because my friend Mel is occasionally and freakishly psychic, she just happened to send me this article: I Gotcher Blog-Writin' Advice Right Here. She thought I might be entertained by it (which I was) but probably didn't realize how close it would hit home for me (except for she probably did). It's a long(ish) read, so let me copy/paste the two paragraphs that spoke to me the loudest:
The blogs of writers are often sad, sad things. They go largely unused, acting as empty, gutted monuments to the writer's own lack of blogging productivity. You visit a writer's blog and the last post is from June, 2012. Wind blows sand over a corpse. The comment sections are, two, maybe three people deep (and the author is one of those commenters). One of the most recent posts is a promise to post more posts, to blog more blogs, to blargh more blarghs, and that post was three years ago. Two rats chew on a third rat. The ground is salted and dead. 
Here you're saying, But an agent or a publisher says I have to blog. To which I respond, that agent or publisher is operating on bad information from five years ago. And it was bad information then. Blogging because you have to? What an execrable task. Who wants to read a blog that you feel is an obligation? I want to read something the author wants to write, not filler content meant to prop up a dead thing. This isn't Weekend At Bernie's. "HEY LOOK AT MY BLOG IT'S TOTALLY ALIVE." *waggles dead blog's sunglasses* *forces dead blog to messily eat carrots and dip*
The author of this post, Chuck Wendig, basically put words to everything I've been feeling about my own half-assed blogging endeavors (actually half-assed seems too generous. Let's go with quarter-assed). After reading Wendig's article, here's what I said to Mel:
I've been debating letting my blog go. It sucks too, because there was a time I LOVED my blog. I loved writing little posts about nothing.... Back then my blog was more personal to me. I didn't have any real readers, so I just wrote for myself, and it was cathartic and fun. Then I started writing a book, and my blog became booooooring. Like, I'm bored with it, and that's a bad sign. And now, reading this article, I feel like I really need to just say goodbye to blogging. But then a small part of me doesn't want to let my blog go because it's sort of my baby. It's been with me for six years now and has chronicled a big chunk of my life...
I don't know. I just really miss the days where I wrote pointless posts like "A Herd of Cantaloupes" and "That which is Pretty, Like Unicorns and Roaches and Stuff." Back then, I wrote because I wanted to write; because something quirky was playing in my brain and I had to get it down on paper--or screen. Case in point: Last night, it took me forever to fall asleep because my left boob had a tiny muscle spasm that wouldn't stop. I was so intrigued by the muscle twitch that I couldn't keep my hands off it, and at one point I realized that if anyone walked into the room, it would totally look like I was feeling myself up. Here it occurred to me that this is one of the stupid things that I would have blogged about in the past. But now I only blog about writer's block and word counts. This makes me sad. And makes me want to yawn.

Long story short, writing a book has turned me into a boring blogger. I started my blog way before I started writing a book--before I even knew that I was going to write a book--so back then, I wrote blog posts just to write them. It was my way of chronicling the little nuances of life--those little moments that aren't deep or important, thus forgettable and nonexistent if it wasn't for writing them down (my sister discussed this phenomenon beautifully in her "Remembering the Jelly" post).

NO MORE. I'm sick of my Bernie-blog. I'm done with obligatory blogging performed in a sad attempt to give the impression of life to an otherwise lifeless blog. 

Which means I'm no longer participating in the WIPMarathon Reports (sorry guys. *sniffle*). I will still follow the WIPMarathon Reports from others though. These are, after all, my writing comrades, and I care about the progress they're making on their WIPs. I also still plan to talk about how my novel is coming along once in awhile...but only when I feel like it, not because "it's that time." The schedule serves as great accountability/motivation, but it also serves as one big guilt-trip when I miss the deadline.

Which brings me to my next point: I'm no longer going to feel guilty if I haven't posted in a long time. Like, why should I feel bad? If I wrote in a diary only once a month, no one would care. Why should a blog be different? I mean, I understand the importance of blogging regularly if you want to gain/keep readers. But I don't care about that anymore. I'm done with strategic blogging. My few attempts at it were feeble and lacked heart anyway.

And from this point forward, if I've been MIA from my blog for 90 days straight and I come back to write a post that says "Our hen Princess Buttercup is actually a dude," and that's all my readers get, well, then, that's all they get. No more crushing sense of obligation to give more. Really, I probably won't have many readers left by this point anyway, so GOODBYE PRESSURE. 

I guess none of this makes sense, because the goals I just laid out seem to be creating a really crappy blog in which "Wind blows sand over a corpse" (Wendig). But these are the things I need to change in order to keep blogging. Period. I'd rather have a crappy blog that I enjoy writing than no blog at all.

I love my readers and I want the ones who care to stick around. But someday when I'm 80 years old, I want to remember the jelly. Not word counts. If that means losing what little readers I have left, I'm okay with that. So...*raises glass* Here's a toast to jelly (sorry, I had to say it).