A How to Train Your Dragon birthday party

My oldest turned 10 this month. We began having parties with friends when he turned 5. The first few parties were thrown at party locations. But last year, we did a Lego Movie party at the house. It was an awesome party complete with an obstacle course, target shooting and a water balloon fight. We obviously set the bar high with that party.

HTTYD invitationThis year, Jase wanted a How to Train Your Dragon party. (The invitation I created for him has been very popular on my Etsy store.) Jase had a pretty good idea of what he wanted done. It was up to my husband and I to make it happen. Soon our biggest concern was not the party but the weather. It poured during the week but on party day, we lucked out with no rain.

Here’s a rundown of his party…

Shield Decorating

P1040567What Viking doesn’t need a shield? My husband cut out these round shields from thin sheets of wood and painted them grey. He attached leather straps on the back and made some dragon stencils. The kids (six boys and two girls) had fun decorating them.

Treasure Hunt

2015-05-16 09.25.26Next we sent the kids on a treasure hunt. We divided them into three teams and gave each one a dragon egg (actually, it was an Easter egg painted either gold, black or grey). Inside was the clue to their next egg. The next clue led to another egg but also had the first number to the combination securing their treasure. They gathered three eggs – each with a number to their lock.

I had written the clues and created a map that would help them figure out where in the yard I might be talking about. I had worried about my clues would be too hard (or even too easy), but they turned out just fine. The kids had a blast working together. Their treasure boxes held candy and leather wrist bands that my husband had created.

Obstacle Course

P1040587At last year’s party we created an awesome obstacle course. This year’s course was a little shorter, but the kids had a blast. First, they balanced on the zig-zag beam (while the other kids threw balls at them – hey, they needed to use those shields for something). After that they weaved through a series of “trees” and hopped on stones over the “lava.” Then they dodged two fire balls before jumping over the sheep hurdles. Discarding their shields, they had to toss two fish toward a dragon’s mouth (laundry basket) before lofting a battle hammer. They then struck two different targets before crossing the finish line. Most kids ran this in less than 30 seconds.

Pizza and Cake

IMG_3274Next came pizza and root beer. We had planned for them to eat outside, but it was so humid, and the kids were hot from running so we opted to have them eat inside at the table where they had decorated shields. After that was the cupcakes that I had made and topped with How to Train Your Dragon rings. I made the butter-cream frosting from scratch and that will be my recipe of the month in June.

Sheep Toss

2015-05-16 12.10.57My son wanted to have a game with sheep – perhaps chasing them. My husband had the idea of shooting stuffed sheep out of his air cannon. What we ended up with was me creating 30 sheep (29 white sheep and one special black sheep) out of poly fill and panty hose. (This idea came from my snowballs from their holiday party.) I attached paper legs and faces with googly eyes. (Template for the faces from this website was reduced by 65% to fit my sheep.)  They were super cute. We threw them in the air for the kids to catch. The kid with the most sheep won, but the black sheep counted as five. The first time we did it, the black sheep was hidden in the yard but on the following rounds, it was tossed into the air with the rest of them.

Sword Play

P1040620At the end of the party, we just released the kids with some foam swords and their shields to have some free play. Some of the swords didn’t survive, but they just came from the dollar store, so I wasn’t expecting them to last.

Each kid went home with their goody bag, shield, wrist band, the red basket from the sheep toss and a sheep (or two) and a dragon egg if they wanted them. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and the birthday boy was happy. This party was a lot of work. Next year, I think we will go even smaller and just have Jase celebrate with his two best buddies.

Today’s Featured Author: Cindy Cipriano

Today I welcome author Cindy Cipriano to my blog. Her second book, The Choice: Book Two of The Sidhe, is set to be released on June 9th.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I believed I was a truly a writer the night I received my first critique of the manuscript of The Circle. It was amazing listening to six writers discuss my story and its characters as if they were real people.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best part about being a writer is fully immersing myself in another world. I love my time in the series experiencing the characters’ lives and when I’m not writing I miss them! The worst part has nothing to do with being a writer, but the fact there is never enough time.

Do you outline your books or just start writing? 

I try, try, try to outline my books. And, I do have some ideas sketched out in a quasai outline form, but it is by no means a formal outline. For the most part, I just start writing.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I am currently working on The Lost, Book Three of the Sidhe. I have also finished a YA which has just found representation by the fabulous Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary.

Please tell us about your current release.

The Choice is the second book in The Sidhe Series. Here’s the book blurb:

the choiceFor Calum Ranson, seventh grade brings changes in his relationship with his parents and his friends, and a confrontation with his bully. Calum’s talents have also developed to a level unheard of in the Sidhe world.

When Calum goes against everything he knows is right, he makes a choice that may cost him his friendship with Laurel. An old friend steps in, but her mysterious ways leave Calum questioning her motives.

In the second book of The Sidhe Series, Calum, Laurel, and Hagen reunite in their search for Finley. And while many things have changed, Calum remains steadfast in his belief that Finley is still alive and Calum will bring him home.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Choice is the second book in a seven-book series. I was inspired to start the series from a daydream during a time-out as a young child. I wondered what I would find if I lifted a tile in the floor of my room. I imagined a long winding staircase and at the bottom, a bearded old man working by candlelight. This man became Calum’s grandfather, Uilleam.

How did you come up with the title?

Here’s a little trivia. The title was originally The Lost. But, when I completed the manuscript for book two, I realized The Lost made more sense for book three as a title. The Choice really is a perfect title for book two and I’m so glad my publisher agreed!

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I researched faeries in great detail before I wrote The Circle, Book One of The Sidhe. I visited many websites, and have acquired lots of research book over the few years I’ve been working on this series. It is important to me that I get the faerie aspect of the story right.

Which of your characters is your favorite?

My favorite character is Donnelly Dunbar. I just love his intensity and his love of his family.

Can you tell us any about the next book in the series? 

In the third book, The Lost, Calum and his friends are in 8th grade and the stakes are getting higher. I like to include real places in my stories (i.e., Fairy Stone Park in The Circle, the Brown Mountain lights in The Choice). The Lost has a very interesting and real setting as well.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

There were two scenes. One involves Calum and Laurel. The other involves Finley. The Circle has a fandom, and I have received a lot of email/messages from some of my fans. They have a definite opinion on Calum and Laurel, and on Finley. It was difficult to write scenes where these characters have some serious choices to make.

What book are you reading right now? 

I am reading two excellent manuscripts by fellow writers Lynn Chandler Willis and Sandra Rathbone. These are going to be awesome books!

About the Author

Cindy Cipriano RCindy Cipriano lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and 27 pets. Okay, maybe not 27. More like three dogs, three cats, and many, many fish. Cindy enjoys spending time with her family, and the avoidance of cooking.

Cindy writes middle grades and young adult fiction. Her first novel, The Circle Book One of The Sidhe Series (Odyssey Books), won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award for Pre-Teen Fiction, Fantasy. Coming soon! The Choice, Book Two of The Sidhe Series (Odyssey Books).


Two of Cindy’s short stories, “What Lance Saw,” and “Miller’s Island,” were published in the children’s anthology, Doorway to Adventure (2010). In addition to SCBWI, Cindy is a member of the Triad Writers and the Drawbridge Writers critique groups. Cindy is represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency.


You can find out more about Cindy at her website. You can purchase The Circle: Book One of the Sidhe on Amazon. The Choice: Book Two of the Sidhe will be available on June 9th. To pre-order it, click here.


Beginning a novel recap

Today I would usually post something about writing or publishing, but it is May, which is a crazy busy month. It is the last month of school for my kids, so there are all sorts of events – school art display, reading with my first grader in class, class picnics – and on top of that we had my son’s 10th birthday party at the house.

So instead of something new, I am going to fall back on my old standby and do a recap. This time I am doing a recap of things that might be of use when beginning a novel.

The past post title is listed first and then typically the beginning of the post. To read more simple click the links.

Starting a Novel…So you have decided to write a novel. Before you sits a blank screen. For some that brings excitement at the unlimited possibilities but for others it can be intimidating. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task at hand. (To read a short intro to novel writing, click here.)

9 ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas – Many authors are teeming with story ideas, so they just need to pluck one and develop it into a novel. But newbies and even a few veteran authors sometimes falter when finding a story to write. (Click here to discover those 9 ways.)

Conflict drives your story – Every story needs some form of conflict. Without conflict there would be nothing to drive the characters and plot forward. It is the character overcoming obstacles that supply the drama, the suspense, the tension in the story. (Lists the 5 types of conflict – click here to read more.)

Choosing the Setting for your Novel – Selecting the right setting can have a significant impact on your story. Choosing where a story or even a scene takes place can add suspense or excitement to a theme. (Click here to read more on settings.)

Making sure your story ideas is sound – You have a brilliant idea for a story. You can imagine the main character and even the opening scene…but when you sit down to write, you realize that is all you have. You don’t have a complete story with a structured plot and a satisfying ending. All you have is this great story idea. (To read more, click here.)

Keeping your story believable – You are watching an action movie, and during the fight scene, the two sides shoot and shoot and shoot some more. And while you are engrossed in the action, somewhere in the back of your mind you are wondering “Shouldn’t they run out of bullets or at least need to reload?” (To read more about making your story believable, click here.)

The importance of character flaws – No one wants to read about perfect characters that always smile, act polite and eat their vegetables. No one is perfect and readers don’t expect your characters to be perfect. In other words, everyone has flaws and so should your characters. (Just one of many posts on characters. Check out my character recap here or keep reading about character flaws by clicking here.)

I hope this helps. And next week I promise to have a new post about writing…just not sure what it will be at this moment.

The Heir to Alexandria now available at all e-book retailers

In January, I released my novel, The Heir to Alexandria, on Amazon as part of their KDP Select program. That meant through the end of April, it was only available on Amazon. (See the results of my 3 month trial of KDP Select here.)

But now, you can buy The Heir to Alexandria for $2.99 at most e-book retailers.

Barnes & Noble         Kobo Store            Smashwords (all e-reader formats)            Amazon 

The Heir to Alexandria

HeirAlexandria_ebookcover Believed the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

Excerpt – Chapter One

The rough hand pressed down over her mouth. Alista’s eyes flew open. With the moonlight behind the large figure, she couldn’t make out any details of the man hunched above her. But his foul breath washed over her making her stomach flop. He rolled her onto her back, pinning one arm to the ground.

The vision hit as Alista struggled to reach her knife hidden under her bedroll. She saw the man’s sinister smile as he attacked a woman. The images of his past came fast. She felt the fear of his victims, the pain he bestowed on them and his pleasure at his actions. Her stomach turned. A wave of nausea swept over her as the vision ended.

The man climbed on top of her, pinning her to the ground. He moved his hand away from her mouth, caressing her jaw with his coarse fingers. Alista heard movement in the camp, but the man didn’t turn. The sound of someone rifling through her bag reached her as her fingers found the cool handle of her dagger.

A scream pierced the cool night air.

The man on top of her twisted around to look behind him. Alista took the moment of distraction to pull out the knife. She jabbed it forward, sinking it into the man’s belly. He turned to face her, a gasp escaping his lips. Shaking, Alista wiggled out from under him. The man clutched at the blood gushing from his stomach. Her own stomach lurched at what she had done. She scooted away as the man staggered to his feet.

She tore her eyes from him to the large wolf standing on the other side of the dying fire. Its jaws were still clenched on the throat of a second intruder. The wolf’s yellow eyes briefly met hers and then flickered to the man beside her. The wolf released its hold on the dead man’s neck. It leapt toward the wounded man, knocking him to the ground.


Alista gasped as she heard the wood break. The man pushed at the wolf as the beast sunk its teeth into his neck. She barely heard the gurgling sound as she reached forward and pulled the broken basket from beneath him. She cradled it in her arms. Tears streamed down her face. What once had been a beautiful, handcrafted basket was now nothing but a heap of wood fragments.

She looked up to see the wolf watching her. In the moonlight, she could see the two lifeless bodies. An image from her vision flashed before her eyes, and she knew she was lucky to be alive. The men had no intention of only robbing her camp. She shuddered. The wolf had saved her again.

“Thank you,” she murmured as the wolf disappeared into the forest.

She sat the basket down and reached for her bedroll. She began to roll it. There was no way she could stay here tonight. Quickly, she put away her supplies that had been dumped on the ground. She glanced at the body lying next to them. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his torn throat. She kicked dirt onto the dying fire until the flames disappeared. In the moonlight, she surveyed the camp one more time before hefting the pack onto her back. With one last glance at the bodies, she began walking.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Raynor warning her that traveling at night was never a good idea. It wasn’t because she couldn’t see the roots and rocks on the trail. It was the Night Stalkers. Alista shuddered. She was fortunate to never have seen one. But she couldn’t forget Raynor’s brush with the huge bug-like creatures. He told the story many times.

Raynor had been foolish enough to be traveling at night, believing the extraordinary clear evening with its bright moonlight would keep the Night Stalkers away. He had not seen the two black creatures until they were almost upon him. Their heads would have come up to the middle of his chest if he had stopped to allow one near him. As it was, he ran as soon as he saw them but with their long, thin legs, the Night Stalkers covered the ground quickly. He swore he felt one of them touch his back as he ran into the meadow. At the top of the hill, he had thought he had lost them but one of them sprang through the air. He barely escaped.

Fire was the only thing the Night Stalkers feared. Alista recalled hanging on Raynor’s every word as he described running toward the forest. He fumbled for his fire rod in his waist pouch. When he entered the woods, he paused to throw down the special mix of fire starter he carried. Scraping his knife across the fire rod, he ignited a branch. He used his torch to drive the Night Stalkers back. Even now, she felt the knot in the pit of her stomach at his narrow escape.

Her mind was so preoccupied by the thought of Night Stalkers that she was to the middle of the meadow before she saw the tiny winged figures. She stopped, her mouth dropping open. She hadn’t believed fairies existed.

Daintily, the small-winged men and women danced around in a circle. The women wore flower petals as dresses and swung little lanterns as their wings beat softly. Some men played pipes or harps while others clapped in time to the music. Then one of the fairies saw her and motioned her forward.

Without a thought, Alista obeyed. The fairies surrounded her. She knelt in the soft grass as the fairies began their dance again. They circled around her. In turn, they bowed or curtsied. She nodded to each. Her eyes grew heavy. She wiggled the pack off her back. Using it for a pillow, she laid down. The fairies continued to dance around her, their music lulling her to sleep.

Gift buying highlights differences in my kids’ generosity

5631e6e110ecb096bb2afa1d0c544ae0Last week, Lexie and I headed to the store to buy her brother a birthday present. She already knew what she wanted to get him – Stormfly, a stuffed dragon for How To Train Your Dragon 2. (She bought him a stuffed Toothless for Christmas.)

However, when we got to the store, they didn’t have what she wanted. I offered to order it online for her, but since we were at the store, she decided she would pick out something else. The problem was there were so many things…that she wanted for herself.

So suddenly, it went from her wanting to spend about $10 on a gift for her brother to spending less on him, so she could buy herself something too. You see this gift was coming out of her allowance, and she only had $13.

I insisted that she pick out something for Jase first. This caused a little whining as she wanted to look at all the enticing things for her. Finally, she picked out a $6 Nerf-type gun for him. That meant she didn’t have much for herself, but she did find a small doll and puppy set. She was happy.

But as we left, I reflected on how different it would have been if Jase was the one doing the purchasing. If he was buying her something, money would not be an option. And even if he wanted to buy himself something, it would not come before buying her a gift. With Jase, it is all about making the other person happy. He has always put her first. In Kindergarten, he would pick a prize from the treasure chest for his sister rather than himself. He would make sure to share his cupcake or donut from a class birthday.

But would Lexie do any of these things? Most likely not. Often her thoughts are on what she wants. That isn’t to say she won’t share, or that she doesn’t choose things to make her brother or others happy. (She gave our neighbor one of her stuffed animals when the neighbor moved away.) But most often it is just she seems to come first.

I guess the best lesson is to set an example, and we do every year with the Angel Tree from our school and other clothing or food drives. We talk about people having less than us, and how much they need what we can spare.

But I don’t want it always to be about mom and dad spending their money. We began giving our kids an allowance to teach them money management. I don’t want to force her to give part of it away. I would like it to come from the heart. I want her to realize that giving to others makes not only them happy but can make her happy too.

***Jase’s birthday was this weekend. He got some money for his birthday. When we went to spend it he spent a third of it on his sister. He bought her Legos. Such a sweet boy!