About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ahhh The Books I've Read...

 Today I'm feeling book reviewish-ish. So I'm going to provide you with some short reviews on some books I've recently read. Hopefully, you'll find something that appeals to you amongst the list. For next month I'm selecting books from my to-be-read pile. But I'll get to that at the end. For now here are some book reviews on a couple of new series I've discovered and enjoyed, as well as a couple of standalone books...

The Tale at Hilltop Farm by Susan Wittig Albert-This story definitely fits in the cozy mystery category of fiction. If you have ever been a fan of Beatrix Potter then I highly recommend this book. It is the first in a series known as the Cottage Tales. I'd heard about these books a couple of years ago and searched for them at my local library but could only find a scattering of books, none of which were the first book in this collection of Beatrix Potter mysteries. Recently, however, my library's ebook collection added more books to this series which enabled me to finally feel I could start reading them. I've also read The Tale of Holly How.

These books include real-life facts about the author into a fictional plot about what village life might have been like for Miss Potter in 1905, after she bought her first farm in the Lake District of England. I love how Susan Wittig Albert incorporates animals in the story into the solving of each mystery. She manages to capture the essence of the Beatrix Potter stories into her plots in this way. It might stretch the reader's suspension of disbelief if you have never read any Beatrix Potter stories before, though. The mysteries aren't gruesome and don't always involve murder. But you are drawn into the life of the village of Sawrey, where the stories take place, and come to care about the outcome as you read. For anyone who loves a good cozy mystery, and doesn't mind stories set in a historical place and time you will enjoy this series.


Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landry-This is a middle-grade fantasy series by Derek Landry that is about a wizard detective who also happens to be a skeleton. A story premise the made me go What? but also intrigued me. Skulduggery Pleasant's partner in detection is a twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie Edgley. Stephanie is drawn into a fantastical sub-culture of magical creatures and people upon the death of her favorite uncle.

This book was very good. At the end you are wondering how any of the main characters are going to make it. There is some violence, so I wouldn't recommend it for a  very young middle-grade reader. But I liked the characters, and the tongue-in-cheek humor that is prevalent throughout the book. There are currently eight books available in this series. I love that this is an urban fantasy geared toward younger readers. I do plan on eventually reading more books in this series. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys urban fantasies that don't take themselves too seriously, but that still involve complex characters as well as a good mystery.

Where Petals Fall by Melissa Foster-This novel is a gripping contemporary suspense by Melissa Foster. I was drawn into the lives of these characters right at the very beginning and had a hard time putting it down once I started reading. The plot revolves around Junie Olson and her daughter who used to be a normal preschool aged girl, but who begins to undergo an inexplicable emotional regression that Junie can't explain. When Junie's father dies and she returns to her childhood home for the funeral, flashbacks of memory begin to haunt her. They involve the unsolved disappearance of Junie's best childhood friend when Junie was only seven. This is a gripping story that explores the dynamics of family and friendship. The ending while not necessarily happy, is realistic, and leaves you with a sense of hope for the characters. This is a stand alone novel. If you love a good contemporary suspense you will enjoy this book.

Don't Sing at the Table-This work of nonfiction by bestselling author Adriani Trigiani incorporates the life lessons the author learned from her two indomitable grandmothers with biographical looks at Lucy and Viola's lives. It offers an interesting glimpse of America's past in a very intimate and heart-warming way. Lucy and Viola were two immigrant women who each discovered their own unique fulfillment of the American dream through hard work and determination. They overcame crippling poverty to become successful businesswomen. I don't always manage to finish biographies, but this one was a fast read. This is a great book for anyone who loves nonfiction stories that revolve around strong women and family.

Over the next few weeks I'm excited to start delving once again into my to-be-read pile. Two older works of fiction I'm planning to read are The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart (which a Disney movie, starring Hayley Mills, was based on) and Newberry Honor book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (which is the 2nd book in a series, but from what I've read the first is more of a prequel story). Two newer novels I'm planning to read are Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman, (a contemporary YA comedy based around Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (a contemporary YA romance). I actually won a copy of Anna in a promotional contest upon its release. It has since gone on to win several awards and has gotten lots of positive buzz.

How about you? Read any good books lately you'd like to share?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Robelisms

Originally, I was going to talk about all the reasons fairy and folktales rock. But on doing the laundry today I made a discovery that switched my blog topic entirely. The find involved my son and I decided he would be much more fun to talk about.

My son is the most interesting, goofiest, sometimes most indescribable person I've ever met. Each day it seems I discover something about him that makes me smile.


Unlike my daughter, Robel doesn't seek out the limelight. At least, not right away. But if he didn't get stage fright he could easily steal the show. Sure in this picture he looks like an average kid. As tempting as it was to show a picture of his funnier side (wearing a fuzzy blanket toga and posing as a Greek god) I've refrained. He would hate me posting a picture like that. And since he's at school and can't give me permission I'll honor his sensitive feelings. But it's really, really, hard.

While I was doing the laundry I realized that his new favorite shirt that he tried to wear 2 days in a row still had its price tag attached to it. This might not seem like a big deal. But it was tucked down inside his new M&M world t-shirt that he wore all day to school yesterday and then to basketball practice afterwards. Then he tried to wear it to school again today. He was excited to have a shirt that his sister brought back for him from overseas. So excited that he couldn't be bothered to take the price tag off. I had to laugh. Wouldn't that tag stuffed down inside his shirt have itched?

Last Friday when he finally got to go back to school again he brought a homework sheet back home with him. It was a project I know we've done at least one time before. He had to make up a record of his life from the age of one until now. Since we've done this kind of thing before and we don't either of us know much about his life before the age of three I let him work on this one mostly by himself. He decided to draw important events that he remembered from his life. I had to help him with his three-year-old square. The facts for the events of that year were both tragic for him and simple. He became an orphan. From that point on the story got happier for both of us. We found each other. For the years one and two he simply put "I don't know." It was an honest answer to the question. Most people can't remember their life at one or two years of age. I told him we at least knew where he lived and with who. But he told me he didn't remember that and I wasn't there, so really "I don't know," summed it up. Nuff said.

When I was taking him to cross country practice a couple of months ago we had a fascinating conversation about ducks. This naturally led to a story idea involving an inept wizard showing off and a duck, which led to giggles for both of us that continued for days afterward whenever one of us would look at the other and quack.

Those are just a few of the Robel moments that I've gotten to enjoy in the almost five years now since I brought this little miracle home with me.



I could continue in this vein all day long. It still wouldn't convey the wonders that are Robel. But here are just a few of my favorite Robelisms that I've recorded over the last few years:

For things that are hot he used to say, "Oooh it's shot."

When faced with a conundrum Robel would hold up his index finger and say, "I have a good idea." Though sometimes he couldn't really explain what that was.

Movies used to be called janoovies, and the interstate used to be the interstreet.

Once when we ordered pizza for late night supper and then went off to do errands while we waited for it to be ready he asked, "Are we going back to Papa Long Johns now to get our pizza? I'm starving." (For those not familiar with the pizza chain he meant Papa Johns).

One of the shows we often like to watch together on TV is "Dancing with the Stars." But I like his title for the show better. While cutting out spiced, sugar cookies during a commercial break he told me, "Okay, I'm going to go back to watching Dancing in the Clouds now."

The other day he was figuring up how many tablespoons of hot cocoa his dad would need to add to the milk to make our dessert of hot chocolate. "If he's using three cups of milk then dad needs to add six tablespoons of cocoa. Or you could say 2+2+2, because that is what 3x2 is." This led to even more ways you can come up with the number six in a math sentence. I love this kid.

What about you? Who are some of  the favorite people in your life who make you smile? Post some of the sayings or things they've done to make you laugh.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Off Track Due to Snow?




Apparently, somebody out there in the universe decided to test my resolve to be spontaneous and live in the present because I've had an awful lot of time to do that lately. Between trying to help get some of my loved ones off safely on a European adventure, then helping with house sitting an extra day, and now finally home to get yet another snow day, I haven't had much time to do anything but live in the moment.

Arctic temperatures will do that with anybody. But as someone who works out of my home it makes it hard to get any work done. It also makes it hard to enjoy the snow when you risk frostbite going outside. So what is a mom or anyone who works out of their home to do?

Well I'll admit, I haven't done much writing. But I knew two things in advance before the storms hit. One, that I wasn't going to get much done over the weekend because of the upcoming prep for my daughter's trip with her grandparents and aunt. Two, that the winter weather might derail my plans to get home by at least a day. In anticipation of both these things I made a decision. I assessed what paid work I needed to get done before leaving and worked steadily away at it to get ahead as much as I could before the weekend. Then I left my computer at home and only kept up with emails, etc. on Nook. That way I wouldn't be staring at my computer bag feeling guilty because I wasn't getting it out and working. I would be forced to live in the here and now and get my family members sent off. I would do what needed doing to help my brother care for the animals and house for an extra day because it was SO COLD, and I knew he'd appreciate the help. Then when things had calmed down some and the roads were in better shape, I came back home and spent the evening being with my husband and son.

Did the snow and cold get me off track from returning to my normal routine. Of course. But my work isn't going anywhere. I still can think of tasks I want to do when my schedule finally gets back to normal again. I can catch up on reading and scribble little notes to myself for ideas for things as I wait. And despite all the things that kept me from working or even from a normal sleep schedule, I'm doing okay. All these things have just made it more of a blessing that I work out of my home. I can afford to be flexible and I will be that much more eager to work when the day-to-day routine resumes.

So take that arctic cold! Resolution for 2014 still being met.

How about you? How has the snow and cold affected you and your normal routine? Has it been a blessing or has it made you a little crazy?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Forward in 2014


Happy New Years everyone! This time of year always comes with mixed emotions for me. Seeing the old year end can make me feel a little sad. But, I in turn, greet the new year full of hope. I've had some success this year as a writer. I actually garnered some paid work which was very exciting. I went to my first writer's conference. I completed a second rewrite on one novel and only lack three final chapters of a rewrite of another. I participated in NaNoWriMo again this year and once again didn't make my 50,000 word goal. But it did force me to work on something new. Well, maybe newer would be a more honest answer. I also made my 100 book reading challenge I set for myself on Goodreads. Sadly, my book collecting habit hasn't abated any. My to-be-read pile grew by several more books over Christmas. My husband told me the other day that we might need to buy another book case, though neither of us could think of a place to put one.

As 2014 drew closer these last few days I've read a lot of the usual posts encouraging me to set goals for the new year. I've seen a few of the normal resolutions that people make each year on Facebook and Twitter. I still haven't set concrete goals for 2014 yet. But for the first time in a couple of years I did make a resolution.

As I was writing in all my upcoming events for the next few months in my 2014 calendar and recording down all the family birthdays I made a startling revelation. Me and my two kids will all be experiencing milestones this year. I'll be entering a new decade of life, my daughter will officially become a teenager, and my son will leave single digit ages behind forever and turn a double digit age for the first time. In another year and a half I will be the mother of a freshman in high school and a pre-adolescent son. YIKES! These thoughts made me feel like hyperventilating for a brief moment in time. Then I reminded myself that none of these things have happened yet. Right now they are both still my little kids, even the one who is almost as tall as me. So my resolution for 2014 is this. To live in the moment. Life passes by way too fast not to live in the present. This doesn't mean I won't set a few career goals for myself in the coming year or resolve to do some things I've not gotten around to doing before (like reading Persuasion and the Hobbit). It is good to give myself something to strive for. Not doing so would take some of the joy out of each day because I wouldn't have anything to look forward to. But I want to remember as much of 2014 as I can next December. So instead of making running lists of the 101 things I'd like to do this year and then stress out when I don't achieve them, I'm going to limit my list making to a few things each month and try to be more spontaneous.

What about you? Have you set any goals or resolutions for the coming year?