February 29, 2012

Nineteen Ninety: The Year of Change by Kathy Stemke


In the beginning of 1990, life stabbed me through the heart. When my 93 year old grandmother passed away, my extended family fell apart. Dying after suffering seven months with bone cancer, my mother left a gaping hole in my immediate family. When I lost my job as a teacher in our church school, I re-evaluated my life. Although I’d been born and raised in New York, living as a single parent in this area had become increasing expensive.

My uncle offered me a job in Georgia. I went to visit and fell in love with Atlanta, but my fifteen year old daughter didn’t want to move away from her friends. Here comes the leap of faith! I decided to move 881 miles away from everything I ever knew. 

I traveled back to Atlanta a couple of months later to find a place for my daughter and me to live. I looked at a beautiful apartment with a swimming pool and tennis court for $1, 200 a month as well as some for $500 a month rental. Then my uncle informed me that he couldn’t give me that job after all. My heart sank into my stomach. That night, I cried out to God for an answer. “Lord, I don’t want to move to Georgia if it’s not your will. Please give me some kind of sign.”

The following day, I took my daughter to see the luxury apartment. I turned toward the rental agent and said, “We can’t afford this apartment, but I wanted my daughter to see where we could live someday.”

The agent smiled. “Can you afford $400 a month?”

“Well, yes, but how…” My mouth dropped open.

“We’re having a contest today. The first agent to rent a room at any price wins a prize.”

“But…I can’t get down here until August,” I said.

The agent put her hand on my shoulder. “We’ll hold it for you. I moved here years ago to start a new life with my teenage daughter. I know how you feel.”

I quickly signed the lease and paid the first month’s rent. All the way back to the hotel I thanked God for his clear answer to my prayer.

As usual God was right. My life in Georgia has been fruitful. My daughter adjusted, married and had two children. I started my own tutoring business. For many years, I was able to help homeschoolers achieve their academic goals while earning enough money to buy my own house. Then I met and married my wonderful husband, Tony. Visit his food blog.  http://gritsandgroceries.blogspot.com

Before long I began my writing career. After selling my first few articles, I created a teaching tips blog and a free monthly newsletter, Rhythm and Movement. http://educationtipster.blogspot.com  When teachers and parents wanted more, I wrote my first picture book, Moving through All Seven Days.  My next two picture books, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep and Trouble on Earth Day were recently awarded The Children’s Literary Seal of Approval. My WIP is a YA historical fiction.
As a freelance writer and ghostwriter, I have published over a hundred articles in directories, magazines and on websites. I’m a reviewer for Sylvan Dell Publishing and a former editor for The National Writing for Children Center. I’m part of the team at DKV Writing 4 U, a writing services company that includes ghostwriting, copywriting, editing, proofreading, critiquing, and resumes.  http://www.dkvwriting4u.com

February 28, 2012

Leaps of Faith, or Not Knowing What’s in the Next Fishbowl by Susan Kaye Quinn


I’m a risk taker, one of those crazy people that tries stuff that seems to terrify others. I think risk takers don’t actually experience the same level of fear as most (normal) people—plus the added adrenaline rush urges us on. I’m the girl who decided at age 10 that I wanted to go into space, and being strapped to the equivalent of a 10 megaton bomb didn’t really concern me. Because it was space—how could you not want that? Sure, it was an incredible amount of work, the chances of actually becoming an astronaut were horribly long, and you could blow up, but the risk of dying was reasonably low, and the rewards were literally out of this world.

See? Easy decision. Which was why I was shocked and a little appalled that becoming a writer terrified me.

Fear has dogged me every step of the way in this process, from the first time I sat down at the keyboard, to the first time I let someone else read my writing, to the first time I published a novel. But today I’m going to talk about the most difficult leap of faith I’ve taken in my writing journey: the decision to become a serious writer.

I had been writing like a crack-addicted monkey with a keyboard for about nine months, when I had to decide if I would pursue writing as a serious career, rather than going back to engineering (which had always been Plan A after the kids were in school). My youngest was going into Kindergarten, and I was envisioning the day when all three of my boys would be in school full time. Would I really spend those daytime hours pounding out middle grade and young adult fiction, rather than getting a real job, one that had a hope of paying me actual dollars?

This was back when traditional publishing was the only real route to success (a mere two years ago), and the only option I would consider if I was going get all serious about being a writer. I don’t tend to do things by half-measures (see the idea of going into space, above), and I knew if I took this leap, there was a real possibility of being one of those writers who never caught the golden ring of publishing: a contract with a NY publisher. The odds seemed about the same as becoming an astronaut, only without the consolation prize of being an engineer who would make meaningful contributions to society, even if I didn’t make the cut. If I went for being a published author—and didn’t make it—I could wind up being one of those unpublished aspiring writers who starts drinking scotch at 10 a.m.

I remember having an intense discussion with my husband about it. “What if I write like crazy, query a hundred agents, and I still don’t have a published novel in 5 years? It could happen. It probably will happen.” I envisioned that as five years of my life, wasted. And I didn’t like to waste things, certainly not years of my life. I have a limited supply of those. At the same time, the idea of giving up my writing was keeping me up at night.

He said, “Well, you could guarantee that you won’t have a published novel within five years by not trying.”

Damn. I hate it when he does that.

So, I took the leap. I decided to let go of the easy money and recognition of returning to the field I’d worked in for years—gotten a Ph.D. in for heaven’s sake—and jumped into a long-odds attempt at being a serious fiction writer for children. This was before I knew about the coming seismic shifts that would grip the industry and turn it upside down. Before I knew that a few months later, a small publisher would seek me out to publish my first YA novel (Life, Liberty, and Pursuit)—a love story I had never intended to publish, having written it for fun and for my niece. Before I knew that the rise of e-books would open up self-publishing as an alternate path for writers. Before I knew my self-published second YA novel (Open Minds) would have more success than I had any right to expect.

I’m not sure that knowing those things would have made the leap any easier, because the chance of failure still burns bright as a possibility, even with all the choices available to writers now (and I truly believe there’s never been a better time to be a writer). I took the leap because I wanted no regrets. I didn’t want to be an eighty-year-old grandmother, reading to my grandchildren, thinking, Maybe I could have written this.

Here’s the thing about taking the leap: it is action. And action is the best weapon against fear, making it evaporate like the mist of illusion that it usually is.

Because I leaped, I discovered that it doesn’t matter to me how my work is published, only that I have people reading it. Every day, someone tells me they enjoyed my novel, or writes a review of my work, or buys a copy—showing with their dollars and time that they’re intrigued to hear the stories I have to tell. I don’t know what the future holds, but in five years, I fully expect to have more novels published and more people reading them.

And I’ve never been happier that I took the leap.
To learn more about Susan and her wonderful writing, visit http://www.susankayequinn.com

February 27, 2012

Taking a Leap Of Faith by Emily Sonderegger


For the last three days of Share the Love, we change subjects to hear from those who have taken a LEAP OF FAITH at some point in their lives. My first guest, Emily Sonderegger, shares how a nudge off the cliff started her leap of faith.

 ***

Taking a leap of faith is a lot harder than it sounds. In some cases, you leave behind everything you know and jump off into a whole bunch of unfamiliar. It’s nerve-wracking at best and absolutely terrifying at worst. You actually have to trust in yourself and others. If you have trust issues, well, it’s not going to be an easy road.



My chance at a leap of faith came three years ago. I was in a dead-end job and hated everything about it. I wanted to quit badly. I NEEDED to quit, for my own sanity. At the same time, I was afraid to make any changes because, CHANGE!! I’m really not a huge fan of change.



Luckily, in my case, the decision was made for me. I lost my job and chose to take my leap of faith right then and there. I paid a visit to a nearby university the next day and enrolled in their graduate program for the next semester. This may not sound like such a leap of faith, but I decided to switch gears completely and change my entire life around. I’d been working in a finance field and switched over to education.



Education isn’t exactly the most stable field in the world right now and there are lots of huge changes coming up in the next couple of years. Still, it felt like the right thing to do. I’ve always been good with kids and I knew I could make a difference.



Fast forward almost three years: I’m nearing the end of my program and will soon be student teaching. There have been bumps along the way, but I’ve never regretted this choice for a second. Switching career paths was a huge leap of faith, and one that I’m glad I’ve taken. Even as a student, I’ve made a difference in children’s lives. I’ll never take that for granted and I’ll never be sorry that I made the choice to go this direction. It’s been a great blessing and I’ll always be grateful for the choices that led me to this.



Emily Sonderegger:

I'm a 30-something avid reader, who would probably rather read than breathe.  I was once asked why I read. Really, the only answer I can give to that is, how can I NOT read? It's just a part of me and always will be.



I also love to write and otherwise exercise my creative abilities with scrapbooking and card design.



I’m currently a graduate student in Education and will complete my program within the next year. After that, it’s on to teaching, molding young minds, and sharing my love of reading and writing.

***

If you missed any of the lovely LOST LOVE posts last week, you can find links to all of them here.

February 24, 2012

Two Decades and She Still Lives On - Lost Love by Paty Jager


There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about my mom.  She left us twenty-one years ago on Thanksgiving after battling cancer.  I regret that she never had the chance to see how beautiful and well-adjusted her grandchildren have become or the chance to play with her great-grandchildren. She loved children and enjoyed life.

Mom loved to play jokes. Especially on my husband because he took the jokes so well and retaliated back in kind. On our wedding day, she got into his packed suitcase and sewed all the flies on his shorts shut. And for Christmas one year she sent him unlabeled jams because they had a running joke where Mom would ask him if he wanted strawberry or raspberry jam and he’d always ask for the opposite one she placed on the table. Of course my husband wasn’t the only person who was targeted with her practical jokes.

One Christmas when my husband and I were first married and living in a small, rundown house where I’d had more encounters with mice than I care to remember, my mom sent a large box filled with Christmas presents and bunched up newspaper.  I opened the flap and spotted what looked like mouse droppings in the folds of the crumpled newspaper. I picked the newspaper out gingerly, deciding Mom had used a box out of the attic in my parent’s old farm house.  The box was half empty when I stuck my hands in, grabbed the wadded up newspaper, and raised it out. A long, thin tail hung from my hand. I shrieked and threw the paper and tail in the air. Our just-walking daughter giggled, toddled over, and picked up the mouse. I ran over to make her drop the vermin and realized it was a fake mouse. I called my mom and all I heard was laughing on the other end of the phone. The next time my parents visited my dad went into detail about how Mom had dyed rice black to make it look like mouse droppings and the length she went to, to find a fine replica of a mouse.

We now have a grandson who loves to play jokes. I often wonder if it’s Mom’s way to making sure we don’t forget all the joy and heart-stopping moments she brought into our lives.

Mom had a way of making people feel at ease and confide in her. I’ve been told I’m a good listener. I hope that of all the things I could have inherited from her it’s being a good friend and confidante.  And a fun mother and grandmother.

One thing my mom was adamant about was that we, her children, could do anything if we just set our mind to it. It was her confidence in my writing that kept me going all those years ago. So it’s with great pleasure I’d like to give you the excerpt from my twelfth published book. It’s a historical western romance set in NE Oregon.

Logger in Petticoats blurb:

Hank Halsey believes he’s found the perfect logging crew—complete with cooks—until he discovers Kelda Nielson would rather swing an axe than flip eggs. As he sets out to prove women belong in the kitchen, he’s the one in danger of getting burned.



Strong and stubborn, Kelda Nielsen grew up falling trees, and resents any man who believes she’s not capable, until Hank. He treats her like a lady and has her questioning what that means.



As Kelda and Hank’s attraction builds, she hires a cook so she can sneak out and work in the woods. But will her deceit ruin her chance at love or will hardheaded Hank realize it’s more than his love that puts a sparkle in Kelda’s eye?



About Me

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

She is a member of RWA, EPIC, and COWG. Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance and Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, garnered 1st place in the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest.
You can learn more about her at her blog; www.patyjager.blogspot.com  her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag.

February 22, 2012

My Dad - Lost Love by Dianne Hartsock

Thank you so much, Kai, for inviting me back to your delightful blog. Hasn’t this been a wonderful month? Being a floral designer as well as a romance writer, my Valentine’s Day preparations began in mid-January and I’m only now putting the last glittery hearts away.

But I’m almost sorry to see it come to an end. This month of romance isn’t only for lovers. It’s also for family and friends. It’s a time that reminds me of all the people I get to love in my life.

It also brings to mind those I’ve lost but keep close to my heart. I’d like to talk about my Dad today. He’s been gone over sixteen years now, but I miss him as if we lost him only yesterday.

So many good memories! But my most favorite ones are from the years before I turned ten. We lived in the ‘pink house’ then, probably one of the best places for a kid to grow up. It was a large house with a back staircase and a big backyard. And even better, it was haunted, but that’s another story!

In this house, the front door opens into a good sized foyer. There are double doors on each side, and a wide staircase straight ahead. Tall narrow windows flank the doorway.

Every evening for as far back as I can remember, me and my younger brothers would gather on those stairs at 4:45p.m. The setting sun shown through the windows, creating rainbows on the wall beside us. It was always warm there. Dust specs danced in the golden light shining in. I still remember the feeling of a held breath and anticipation.

The door would rattle then open. Dad’s familiar whistle rang through the house seconds before he’d walk across the threshold. Dad was home! The sense of security and blanket of love that came with him was amazing. Everything was right with the world because he was there.

This memory still makes me smile and I’ve always tried to bring this same sense of peace and love to my home as well.

This brings me to my second favorite memory of my Dad. I’ve always been a writer, though not a successful one until last year. But in all the years since I moved away from home, whenever I talked to my Dad on the phone, the very first thing he’d ask was how my writing was coming along. Such a motivator for me! Even when I lost faith in myself, he never stopped believing in me. That gave me the freedom to believe in myself and to keep trying. How could I give up when he never gave up on me?

If you can’t tell yet, my Dad has been a great influence on my life. He taught me the value of good work ethics and dependability and honesty and love. Not in that order, mind! And in this month of love I wanted to share these beautiful memories I have and to thank Dad for being a person I admire and respect. He guides my steps more than I think he realized.
Okay, I’m getting all mushy! Thanks so much for listening and feel free to visit me any time.

Dianne Hartsock

Dianne lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play.

She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write her tales. There’s something about being cooped up in the house while it pours rain outside and a fire crackles on the hearth inside that kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which she says is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

February 21, 2012

Honoring People Who Graced My Life - Lost Love by M Pax

Lost love week here on Kai’s fabulous blog. Thanks for having me on, Kai.
   I chose this topic because loss was on my mind a lot in 2011. My sister lost her husband in 2011 very unexpectedly. The shock was...well, I journaled about it on my way to be with her and her family, then on my way home. I’m not sure it has entirely worn off yet. What? I’m really not going to laugh with him ever again? That can’t be true.
   None of that has entered my stories yet because it is still too new and too fresh.
   When we are expecting a loss, although it hurts just as much, it’s not the same as a sudden loss. Those blindsides take extra processing. It seemed so unreal at the beginning. This can’t be true. He can’t be gone. He was just here. We had no warning. And I have some distance. I can’t even begin to imagine how my sister copes.
   Eventually, both he and my recorded thoughts from those days will make it into my stories. It’s a great homage to people who have meant something to me in life.
   Years ago I had a lovely internet friend I spoke to everyday, then she disappeared. We found out about a week later she had died suddenly from a stroke. There were a group of us who spoke regularly online then and I promised to memorialize her as a character in one of my stories one day.
   I finally did. The novel I’ll be releasing this summer has a character named for her and who takes on many of her online traits. The actual appearance, well, it was science fictionalized. I had never based an entire character on somebody I actually knew before and found it a challenge. I wanted to get it right, wanted everyone to feel the loveliness she was when alive.
   From the reactions I’ve gotten from my critique partners, I’d say I got her character right. And, I’ve decided it would be something I’d do again, honoring people who had graced my life with their loveliness.
   Is this something you’ve done, or thought about doing?
M. Pax blogs at Wistful Nebulae and at MPax-TheWebsite. She spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory and has a slight obsession with Jane Austen. Author of Semper Audacia and the free reads Plantgirl, Translations and Small Graces. Coming in 2012: The Backworlds, Stopover at theBackworlds' Edge, The Tumbas and The Augmentation of Hetty Locklear.

February 20, 2012

Remembering Grandmother - Lost Love by Mary Esparza-Vela

On the way to grandmother’s house, I had trouble concentrating on my driving. It was hard to accept the fact that my maternal grandmother would no longer be in my life. I parked in front of her house and as I strolled down the narrow sidewalk towards to the front porch, I pictured her sitting in her old rocker, a crochet needle in one hand and a ball of yarn on her lap.

Grandma always had her hair pulled back into a bun and as a child, it always reminded me of a large, white donut.
Once Grandma saw me, she stretched out her arms like an eagle and demanded a big hug and a kiss from me.

I loved to spend my summer months with Lita, as I called her. Lita pampered me and always surprised me with a new dress she had sewn on her old Singer Sewing Machine. I remembered the day I went with her to buy the complicated contraption at Annie’s Cloth store on Third and Main. At the age of nine, I was full of questions.

“Why do you want to buy a sewing machine, Lita?” I asked her.
“I’m going to make clothes for you,” she responded with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Why do you want to make clothes when you can buy them?” I asked.
“So I can save money, mija,” she responded.

That day, I skipped down the aisles of the cloth store and found myself surrounded by fabric of all colors and designs. I had never seen so much cloth in my entire life. There was cotton, rayon, wool, silk, nylon, polyester, and so much more.

Grandma spotted the sewing machine at the back of the store and her eyes lit up.
“That’s what I want!” she said, her face beaming with joy.
After examining the sewing machine, she said, “This sewing machine is on sale. It’s a used model and costs only $30. I think it’s a good buy.”

That afternoon, I waited anxiously for Grandpa to arrive with the sewing contraption in the back of his pickup truck. He set it in the corner of the living room and I stared at it.
The sewing contraption looked like a desk with two small drawers on each side. A large label at the bottom read: Singer Model 545. 

Under the wood casing I saw a large wheel with a thick rubber band looped around it. A cast iron base called a treadle would provide the drive for the machine to work, but only if the operator moved her feet up and down on the foot pedal. The device reminded me of the potters’ wheel I had seen at the history museum during a school field trip.

“Where’s the sewing contraption, Lita?” I asked her.
“Let me show you,” she said.
Grandma opened the lid to reveal the sewing machine and then pulled it out.
“How does it work?” I asked.
Grandma threaded the needle and then as she moved her feet up and down on the pedal, the machine sewed two pieces of fabric together.
“How neat!” I exclaimed.

Again, I wondered why Grandma would want such a complicated contraption. She always had so much to do at home, washing, ironing, cooking meals for Grandpa, and working in her vegetable garden in the back yard. When would she ever find time to use this complicated contraption?
“I’m going to make you some beautiful dresses with this wonderful contraption,” said Grandma.

The years passed and Grandma’s sewing skills improved. I celebrated my 15th birthday with a beautiful, pink chiffon party dress with lace trim and puffy sleeves. I had been proud to wear it.
For my high school prom, Grandma designed a yellow taffeta dress that my girlfriends envied. When asked where I bought it, I proudly said, “Grandma made it.”

My wedding dress was definitely unique. Grandma gave it a special touch by adding silk embroidery and white pearls to the bodice. Everyone thought it came from an expensive bridal boutique.
Because of her talents, Grandma succeeded in becoming a self-taught, expert seamstress. She easily copied styles from fashion magazines and received numerous requests for her sewing services, but she only wanted to sew for me.
A bright and resourceful woman, Grandma never let anything get her down. Once she started a project, she followed through until she finished it. 

But there was one thing that I never knew as a child. Grandma had suffered an injury to her left eye as a teen and she only had vision in her right eye. The injured eye looked normal except for a tiny white speck on the pupil.
Despite her handicap, Grandma managed to accomplish what a normal person could accomplish with two eyes. A remarkable woman, she demonstrated that if we work around our disabilities, we can succeed.
I learned to sew on the Singer sewing machine but my finished projects could never compare with Grandma’s designs.

I unlocked the front door and walked into Grandma Lita’s quaint and cozy, but now abandoned home. The Singer sewing machine sat in the corner of the living room with a note taped on it. It read: “For my wonderful granddaughter who gave me so much joy.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks and I could not stop them. I was going to miss my wonderful Lita. No longer would I hear the sweet voice that welcomed me every time I stopped by for a visit.
“Would you like some hot chocolate with a fresh homemade donut, mija,” she’d say before she scurried to the kitchen.

REMEMBERING GRANDMOTHER
(Her Sewing Contraption)


Mary Esparza-Vela is a published author whose previous work as an Editorial Assistant led to awards and recognition. She has written articles for religious publications and won various online writing contests. Several of her children’s stories have been selected for publication by Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. A patented inventor, Mary has also developed unique plush dolls that were given Preferred Choice and Seal of Excellence awards by a panel made up of parents and educators. She lives in Texas with her husband who is her writing partner, and her three children.

February 19, 2012

Don't Become Someone's Lost Love by Kai Strand

Such lovely Current Love stories were shared last week. We were even treated to more in the comments. Now it is time to move to this week’s topic. LOST LOVE.

When I first developed the concept for the February guest posts, I hadn’t decided to compose an introductory post for each week, so it was easy for me to include the subject of LOST LOVE, knowing I wouldn’t have to address it myself. But then I changed my mind and now I’m faced with the topic I really don’t want to address. I know that time heals and that there will be a day that I’ll jump at the chance to honor my LOST LOVE, but for now it is still too fresh and too personal. I shared it here if you are curious.

Instead I’m going in a completely different direction. Because that’s what writers do.

As 2011 drew to a close I was feeling generally crappy. The last half of the year I had been kind of floundering. I lost so much last year and though I was dealing pretty well emotionally, I wasn’t taking good care of my body. I gained some more weight on top of the weight I’d previously put on. My blood pressure was again out of control, though I didn’t know that at the time. I felt like my body was stuffed full of greasy, fatty garbage. I wore out before the day did and woke in the morning with a headache and already exhausted.

A million years ago, back when I still smoked cigarettes, a co-worker said to me, “Won’t you even quit smoking for your kids? Don’t you want to be around for them?” It didn’t motivate me to quit smoking then (the kids themselves did later, but that is another story), but her questions have stuck with me since.

I try to keep myself healthy, but I let that slip last year. So on January 3rd, 2012, I recommitted myself to a healthy lifestyle. I have to lose some weight. I have to do my stupid core exercises to avoid a third back surgery. I have to get and keep my blood pressure under control. I have to do it so that I don’t become someone’s LOST LOVE. Genetics gave me the battles that I have to fight. My children, my husband, my besties, my amazing family give me to willpower to fight them.

So ask yourself if you are doing what you can to avoid becoming someone’s LOST LOVE. There are so many things in this universe that we don’t have control over, but our health is not one of them. For some of us, it is really hard work to stay healthy, but to be here with my kids as they graduate, get married, have babies, to grow old with the man who makes me laugh and loves me so well, to turn gray (or not) with the friends who I’ve known through thick and thin, ups and downs – it is worth the hard work.

For those of you on this journey, I’m doing the Rocky Balboa dance for you. You know the one, at the top of the stairs, double fist pumps in the air, sweating and panting – but accomplished! Keep up the hard work. After all, don’t you want to be there for your loved ones?

Be sure to join us this week for some truly beautiful LOST LOVE posts. If you missed any of the Current Love stories you can find them here.

February 17, 2012

My Idea Man - Current Love by Michelle Brown

People ask me all the time how I do it. How do I find time to write, raise ten kids (number eleven due in April) and keep my sanity? Well, writing helps keep me sane, and my wonderful husband of twenty-two years makes sure I get plenty of mental therapy. Bob is my idea man (most of my best stories have their roots in his imagination), my cheerleader, and my first reader. Since many of my main characters are middle-grade boys, his male perspective keeps my writing authentic. He coins the best titles and last lines. He protects my writing time at night by reading to the kids, bathing them, brushing their teeth, and tucking them in. Whenever he can, Bob sends me to writing conferences and retreats, even if they're a week long and far away. 

I'm currently working on a Bigfoot story, and needed a fun angle for the piece. I told him to "mull" some ideas for me. Bob came home from work with a list of ten zany ideas--things that never would have crossed my mind. He loves to bring me books and articles, and is always forwarding me some inspiring blog link or NPR story he's heard on his commute. 

But the best thing about Bob is the way he holds my chin up after a rejection, helps me celebrate with every acceptance, and gently prods me to keep going when I want to quit. He's always asking what I'm working on, do I want to read it to him, where am I going to send it. When I'm torn between different projects, he's my sounding board and helps me weigh the pros and cons without telling me what I should do. 

So Bob's how I do it. I don't deserve him, but as Jane Austen said, "Nobody minds having what is too good for them."

BIO: Michelle's middle-grade fiction has won several awards, most notably Highlights Author of the Month (Feb. 2011, Jan. 2010) and 2009 Highlights Fiction Contest Winner. She's currently a staff writer for knowonder! online children's magazine, and a guest author for BoomWriter. Michelle has also been published in Chess Life for Kids, BRIO, relatemag.com, Bumples, Characters, StorySomething, hisstories.com, Stories for Children and writes on assignment for Gospel Publishing House's teen devotional magazine, Take 5 +. Michelle is resident playwright and director for her local children's theater, although she says her own big family provides her with all the comedy and drama she needs. Michelle is represented by Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary Management. Learn more about Michelle at http://www.michellelbrown.com and http://www.mlbrownwrites.blogspot.com

February 15, 2012

All About Heart - Current Love by Shari Maurer

I met the love of my life at summer camp when I was 17 years old. Mat was really cute and funny and I had a giant crush on him.
Five years later, we were married. Mat was in medical school and I was at NYU going for my MFA in Dramatic Writing. After his residency, Mat decided to train to become a cardiologist. The day after he mailed his cardiology fellowship applications, our daughter Lissie was born. Five days later, we learned Lissie had a heart defect and would need surgery. Thank goodness Mat understood all of the medical terms being thrown at us, because it was a really scary time.
When it was all over and Lissie was doing well, my friend Gerri Freid Kramer, whose son also had a heart defect, came to me and suggested we write a book for parents of children who were experiencing what we had. With Mat as our advisor, we crafted questions for the dozens of health care professionals who contributed to the book and several years later The Parents’ Guide to Children’s Congenital Heart Defects was published.
I had worked at the Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) until Lissie was about a year and half old. Two sons later, I was home with my kids and itching for something else to do. I started thinking about writing again and took a class at the Institute for Children’s Literature. While taking that class, Mat and one of his patients were featured on a program on the Discovery Health channel with Dr. Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz was focusing on heart transplant patients and we were having fun watching Mat on TV, when one of the segments showed a young girl waiting for a transplant. I watched her face as she was wheeled into the operating room—a mixture of excitement, fear, anxiety and hope. I was haunted by this girl and as I kept thinking about her. Thus, Emmi and my novel, Change of Heart were born.
Thank goodness for Mat. When I had a medical question about Emmi’s journey, I had an expert I could always approach. Ironically, when WestSide Books was trying to decide if they wanted to buy Change of Heart, they sent it to a pediatric cardiologist to ensure that I had gotten the medical facts right (I did!).
After Change of Heart was released, Mat and I realized that we had a wonderful forum to promote organ donation awareness. Mat had so many patients waiting for hearts and anything we could do to help would be great. I partnered with the New York Organ Donor Network, who generously printed Change of Heart bookmarks with book info on one side and organ donor info on the other. Mat and I did several joint interviews for cable TV shows where we got to speak about organ donation and the importance of registering to be a donor.
Who would have thought when I was 17 and falling in love with this guy at camp that I would actually marry him and that he would be so influential in my career? Not a bad guy to have around. And I still have a big crush on him!
Shari Maurer:
Shari’s website: http://www.sharimaurer.com/
Shari’s Got Teen Fiction? blog: http://gotteenfiction.blogspot.com/
For more information about organ donation registration: Donate Life: http://donatelife.net/

February 14, 2012

CURRENT LOVE by Rena Jones

I suppose I could title this The Only Love of My Life rather than simply Current Love. I met Rick in high school. I was a sophomore and just barely sixteen. He was a senior and on the water polo team. My best friend introduced us while I was ditching tennis class. Rick drilled her, wondering why he’d never seen me around. I hated school and was hardly ever there. Two days later, he asked me to a dance. He would have asked sooner, but I stayed home from school those two days. Go figure.

Rick and I just clicked. It was like we were married from day one. In the seven years we dated, we never broke up. There was never any question if we were right for each other. Somehow, we just knew. In fact, we bought our wedding rings several years before we even got engaged. I’d like to say we were 100% sure, but the reality was the jeweler was having a really great sale. The reason we dated so long was because Rick had plans of becoming a doctor. After high school, he started college, but eventually he had to stop because of money. He ended up working in law enforcement instead. I used to joke I got ripped off – I was supposed to marry a doctor, but I got a cop instead. Talk about your false advertising!

We were married on Valentine’s Day in 1988. Now most people think having a Valentine’s Day anniversary would be the most romantic thing ever. It can be, but it sucks going out to dinner because it’s such a busy night for restaurants. Typically, if we celebrate with dinner, we usually go the night before. If anything, having a Valentine’s Day anniversary makes it easy to remember.

Even though we’ll celebrate our 24th anniversary this year, we’ve been together a total of 31 years. That’s a long time. Seriously. I mean, we’ve had friends who didn’t even live that long. Most people we know from school are divorced, some several times over. I suppose you could say high school sweethearts are almost a rarity now. We’ve had our ups and downs. Mostly ups. We’ve been blessed with four beautiful children. We’re also turning into one of those crotchety, old couples who can read each other’s minds. We’ve always done that, but lately it’s getting worse. It’s kind of freaking me out a little. For example, he’ll ask what I want to eat, and before I have time to say what popped into my mind, he says it. Freaky.

Rick has always been my rock. I came from a single parent home, living in less than desirable living conditions. Rick has always made me feel not only safe, but stabile. He’s the worrier and I’m the laid-back one who says, “Everything will work itself out.” I think we balance each other out well. The only thing we ever fight over is food! I eat low-carb and Rick did for a while, but he got burned out. He’d lost a bunch of weight, but put most of it back on. So whenever I talk about carbs, he gets all cranky on me. If the worse we do is argue about how many net carbs there are in a bag of peanuts, then we’re not that bad off. Tonight he brought me home a box of sugar-free conversation hearts, so I guess I’ll have to keep him. For now.

BIO –

Rena Jones is a homeschooling mom and children’s author. Besides writing and harping on her boys to quit coming up with new story ideas and do their spelling, she enjoys photography, wildlife watching, national parks, camping, exercising, and music. She lives in Bigfork, Montana with her husband, four kids, and two cats.
Website – http://home.centurytel.net/RickRena/index.html

(Happy Anniversary Rena & Rick!)

February 13, 2012

My Middle Grade Muse - Current Love by Kathy Sattem Rygg

I am lucky to have a wide network of supportive family, friends and colleagues. A few of my biggest champions include my husband, my mother, my friends of 25 years, and my former administrative assistant. At every turn, they encourage me to pursue my love of writing. But the most surprising influence in my career has been someone I never would have expected: my 8-year-old son.
Like most kids he learned to read when he was in Kindergarten, and he picked it up quickly. He devoured early readers and moved on to chapter books the summer before first grade. He read the entire “Magic Tree house” series and I scrambled to find books to keep up with him. One day he turned to me and said, “Mom, you’re a writer. Would you write me a chapter book?” I had written everything from poetry to press releases, but it never occurred to me to write a children’s book. “Sure. I could do that,” I said. My son told me what he wanted it to be about, and I wrote it. I came up with a cover design and gave him a paperback copy for his 7th birthday. The look in his eyes when he opened up the book was enough to propel me into the world of children’s book writing.
I realize many writers have had similar experiences writing for their children and grandchildren. But my son’s enthusiasm didn’t stop there. With his help, I turned the first book into a series of six books for him and my younger son. Then I wrote another chapter book, Tall Tales with Mr. K. It was his idea to bring a copy to his school librarian, and as a result I recently conducted my first school author visit. My son also inspired me to write my first middle grade book, Animal Andy, which will be available this August from Muse It Up Publishing.
I am currently a staff writer for the children’s emagazine knowonder! and my son and I have brainstorming sessions to come up with short story ideas. He asked if he could have a quarter for every idea of his that gets published. (I think they’re worth at least a dollar!) My son is a great critic too, providing honest feedback about what he likes and doesn’t like in my writing. Because of his support, I am an active member of SCBWI and attend several writing conferences and workshops each year to improve my skills.
After my son was born I put my corporate career on hold to stay home and raise him. At times it was difficult, especially as I watched friends and colleagues continue to have success in their careers. But it’s because of that decision and my middle grade muse that I have launched into an entirely new direction with my career, and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been.
Kathy Sattem Rygg is a freelance writer and author of Tall Tales with Mr. K, available in both print and for kindle from Amazon, and as an ebook in all other formats from Smashwords. She lives in Omaha, NE with her husband and two sons, and can be found on her blog at http://ksrwriter.blogspot.com.
Book Description: The third-graders at Coyote Run Elementary thought the teacher's lounge is where teachers eat candy out of vending machines, watch TV and get to play video games. They didn't expect it to be a tropical island where they are kidnapped by pirates, a circus where they learn the flying trapeze, or a crime scene where they solve a jewelry heist.

Each chapter of this young middle-grade fantasy tells the story of a different student's adventure in the teacher's lounge accompanied by their mysterious new teacher, Mr. K. Only one student, Sam, decides to boldly go into the teacher's lounge by himself where he discovers something completely different yet.

February 12, 2012

Love in the Office - Current Love by Kai Strand

As February’s Share The Love theme progresses, we move away from the Industry Love stories and into a subject more closely related to Valentine’s Day, which we celebrate on Tuesday. This week my guests and I will share stories about our CURRENT LOVE.

One day I was walking up a hallway at work and glanced into an office that was normally empty. I made eye contact with an occupant sitting behind the bare desk. He wore a gray suit and a disinterested expression. It was obvious he was filling out paperwork for the open systems engineer position we were interviewing for. I continued past the office as if he hadn’t just made my heart skip a beat. As soon as I’d cleared the doorway I broke into a run. I ran straight to the reception desk and asked the girl, “Who is that?” She giggled. “I know, cute, huh?” she replied. She pulled out his resume and cover letter. “His name is Glen.” We poured through the documents and learned all we could. I know SO illegal, let’s not think about that part.

It was awhile before he got the job and by then I was dating someone else. A bunch of us at work were the same age and would often go out together in a group. We’d go out for happy hour, but more and more, Glen and I would end up the last two there. We’d switch to coffee and talk until 1:00 am sometimes.

We got a new boss and he thought my support position would be better positioned in the back of the building with engineering instead of up front with the sales people. I was so insulted. I went from having my own office to sharing an office with Glen. It felt like a demotion and poor Glen had to hear my mumbles and mutterings as I set up my new desk. As a systems engineer, Glen traveled a lot. Soon I realized that I missed him when he was gone. He was a fun office mate. Always making me laugh. Spending so much time together at work and after work, we’d become really good friends and shared everything. He’d tell me about all the girls he dated, I’d ask advice about my boyfriend.

Then one day I realized he’d just admitted to having broken it off with the last of his many admirers. I wondered why. Yep, I was the only one who did not have a clue as to what was happening.

Glen and I were friends for a year. I’d recently broken it off with my boyfriend. I was approaching my 25th birthday and lamenting my single status; my sisters had both married by 25 and I wasn’t even dating anyone. One night I tossed and turned, completely distraught over my singleness. Wondered what I was doing wrong. What was I…missing?  Oh. My. God! About 2:00 a.m. I realized the solution was staring me in the face. There was a perfectly good guy in my life already. What was I going to do about it? I tossed and turned the rest of the night figuring that out. The next day I went to work with the thought in my head that I wanted to date Glen, but I kept the knowledge to myself for a couple days wondering what it would be like standing next to him as his girlfriend.

A couple nights later we went to happy hour, like usual. Stayed for coffee, like usual, and I finally scrounged up the nerve to say something as we were saying goodbye. “Um, I was wondering,” I said, leaning against my car. “If there might be something more here than friendship?”

Glen let out a breath I think he’d been holding for a year. “Yes!”

This year we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. The best part? The friendship that started the relationship is the core that we’ve built on the entire time. I still think he’s cute. He still makes me laugh and we can still talk until all hours of the night. I’d say I’m lucky, but really I’m smart. I know a good thing when I see one. Well, eventually I figure it out.

Be sure to visit all week as my guests share their own CURRENT LOVE stories. I guarantee a fun, inspiring and heartwarming week ahead. If you missed any of the Industry Love stories, you can find them here.