My Top 10 parenting posts from 2013

Well it is the end of the year and I have been busy with holiday shopping and activities with the kids. So for my last parenting post of the year, I decided to highlight ten of my favorite posts about being a parent.

1. Explaining cancer and chemo to the kidsThis one was from Jan. 28, 2013. As the year progressed, the kids only had a few questions about Pat who had such a great, upbeat attitude through her whole ordeal. I am glad to say that as of this October, she is cancer free!

2. Why I choose not to have my kids birthday parties at home – This one is from March 4, 2013. It ran the day after we had Lexie’s party at Inflatable Wonderland. This coming year she wants to go to Chuck E Cheese for her birthday. As for Jase, I think we are going for a smaller party – and gasp, it probably will be at home. I am sure that will be a post this coming year!

3. Favoring one parent over the other – This one was from May 6, 2013. This topic may come up again as we are planning a trip to Disney World in 2014 and I will be explaining to the kids that there will be NO arguing on who gets to sit with Daddy on every ride!

4. Unique Anatomy: Situs Inversus and Interrupted IVC  &  Unique anatomy continued: Polysplenia – These two post ran May 20 and June 3 about my daughter Lexie. I was touched by the parents who contacted me thanking me for posting about her condition and sharing their stories of their children with either the same or similar conditions.

5. Should we lessen disappointment and rejection for our children? This post ran on May 27, 2013 and of course the answer should be “no” but it seems society doesn’t agree.

6. Establishing House Rules – This one is from June 24, 2013. Our posted house rules have helped somewhat and we have yet to have to add to them though we did change the last one to not interrupting anyone rather than just adults.

7. Building the kids a Lego table – This one if from Aug. 5, 2013. I had to share this one again since I think it was so worth building Jase a Lego table. He uses his all the time. Lexie is just now getting into Lego Friends so I think hers will get more use soon but until then I love that it is easy to store under her bed!

8. It’s a different age…kids growing up with computers – This post ran Sept. 30, 2013. It is amazing how much kids use and rely on computer these days. I am sure a few more posts will appear next year about kids and computers including one about bringing a tablet to school.

9. Planning a Trip to Disney World – part 1 – This post appeared Oct. 28, 2013 which is right after Pat and her family came back from Disney World where they celebrated Pat being cancer free (see post #1). We too are planning a trip in June 2014 so I expect there to be two or three more posts about planning our trip to appear in 2014.

10. Puppy Sadie Rose joins the family – This one is from Nov. 4, 2013 (my hubby’s birthday). For those of you who know about Lexie’s allergies, the fact that we brought a puppy into the house and she hasn’t had any issues with that is simply amazing. I am sure there will be at least one post about Sadie and the kids in 2014.

And as the year wraps up, I also wanted to thank all the other parents who take the time to read my blog and post their comments. I appreciate every one of you and hope to hear more from you in 2014!

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Today’s Featured Author: Jas T. Ward

Today I am pleased to have author Jas T. Ward on my site as he discusses writing his The Shadow-Keeper series.  Book One: Madness was released earlier this month. 

Interview 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Sure. I was raised in the deep south of Texas. I moved away for over a decade to Northern Kentucky and loved the region. I moved back to my home in Southeast Texas to take care of my aging ill father and help however I was needed.

I have been a writer since I was a child and it’s always been my salvation to deal with the hardships of life. Even now.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I can’t remember a time I didn’t write or draw. I used it as an escape of a painful childhood. I would write stories, poems almost constantly. Kept a notebook and pencil with me everywhere I went.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Tons. Maybe too much. All my characters have tortured pasts and love as well as happiness does not come easy to them. Much like what I put myself through for the same things.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Rules of writing style. How you are supposed to write this way, and only that way. That is terrible. Let it flow. Let the creativity show you where its taking you.

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

I’m never alone. Not when I can lose myself in my worlds and listen to my characters tell me their story.

The worst? I get a bit obsessed with it. Have a hard time focusing on anything other than the scene that is nagging me in my head to be written. I won’t be able to function until I note it down.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

To keep my sanity. Without writing? I honestly don’t think I could function. I suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome from a tragic incident as well as bi-polar tendencies after the abuse I suffered growing up. Writing is my outlet. It keeps me level. And for that… I owe it so much.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

The right answer is outlining right? Oops. I have outlined books yes. Have I stuck to it? No. I just start going and it flows and I’m just along for the ride at that point.

Please tell us about your current release.

Madness is the first book in the Shadow-Keepers Series. It’s a fun, dramatic, twisted and dark read but with enough light to make it never seem too heavy. It’s the story of Reno Sundown who used to be the split personality of a hero. Until they both fell in love with the same woman. Then they became enemies and Reno wanted them both dead rather than have his good-side be with her. A god called Bounce stepped in and separated them to give Reno his own body and life.

As long as he stayed away from the woman- Emma Devenmore. Which he doesn’t because he loved her from their one night together when he was still part of the hero. But destiny along with Hell and Heaven have other plans for him.

Fans labeled the story early on as – Beauty and the Beast for grown-ups. And so we call it:  Sweetly Dark, Twisted Retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And that’s even seen in the book (with the permission of Disney of course).

What inspired you to write this book?

The fans actually. Reno was killed off in my social media writings because I thought it was time. The fans thought differently. So I had to come up with a way to bring him back to life. And I did. And I am VERY glad the fans revolted because I love writing Reno and his new world of The Grid.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

It is. It’s book one of the Shadow-Keepers series. There are five books total for the series. But there are going to be e-novellas in between the book releases where we show the backstory/history of the secondary characters.

The first such novella is of the god called Bounce. Then the second book in the series is Lust, which comes out in December. It’s the story of McKenzie Miller—a tough talking street kid who doesn’t take any crap. But she’s so wounded. She just doesn’t let it show. Reno and Emma are in all the books of the series however, since each book leads into the next book in a continual storyline. Yes, that’s right—cliffhangers.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Reno. Totally and without a doubt. The man has the MOST fun and does everything with a smile (he is insane after all). But also takes nothing for granted and appreciates everything. Has a childlike wonderment for even the smallest of things.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

Probably mine (coming this next summer). Light and Dark. To be a person that could go to the High Council of Heaven or deep into the Keep of Hell? To see the different types of creatures and species that keeps it all running? I would love to see that. (It’s been called a Harry Potter for grown-ups.)

Book Description

Madness Proof Front Final OriginalA Darkly Sweet, Twisted Love Story.

A night could change everything.
Consume a cold heart in heat…
Open a heart that has been closed…
Intertwine two lives for a lifetime…and beyond.

The only thing Reno Sundown has ever known is pain. How to take it and how to use it. He was created that way and once his purpose was done, he was locked away. Never had he known good, laughter, love until he met her.

Emma Devenmore has always focused on one thing, family. The eldest of her sisters, she has made life centered on protection. Protecting her family and doing her job of protecting others. A love story was never in her plans, until she met him.

By chance, their paths cross and both were forever changed. A Beauty left yearning for a Beast, who had opened her up to something she had never dreamed of.

A Beast left wanting for a Beauty, who had unlocked emotions he never knew possible, and never was supposed to know existed.

Once paths are crossed, can they ever be uncrossed? Once they are crossed, are they destined to grow together? Or can they only be consumed by complete Madness?

About the Author

Jas T. Ward has always used writing as a necessary escape. With a past that is marred with a difficult childhood and domestic violence as well as being homeless as an adult, Ward lost her creative voice when she lost her soul mate to suicide.

Finding that creative voice once again in writing in social media via blogs and creative writing groups, it was the fans that encouraged her to put her literary weavings to paper for them to enjoy.

Ward lives in Texas with her dog and cat- Author Dog Pumkin and Writer Kitty Orleans and is the proud parent of three independent children.

When asked why she writes, Ward answers simply:

Reading saved me. It was my salvation and my haven. I now strive to pay that gift back by writing books that can give the same to others. And to keep myself sane.

You can find out more about Jas on his blog or on Facebook.

You can buy Madness on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Istore, and the Kobo Store.

Holiday Sale – #Free or reduced #fantasy books

Welcome all you new e-readers out there. I hope many of you received a Kindle, Nook, iPad or Sony e-reader this holiday season. As my present to all the new e-reader owners, you can get two of my books for FREE! Or get my trilogy for just $2.99! 

Please use the coupon codes on the Smashwords website where you can download these stories in whichever e-book format you need. All coupons are good thru December 31st. Enjoy!

The SearchTHE SEARCH – a fantasy short story

For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?

FREE -No coupon needed  Smashwords   Barnes & Noble   Kobo Books

SummonedFINALSUMMONED: Book 1 of The Elemental

At the age of four, Lina discovered she could start fires with a mere thought – a trait which had died out long ago. Cautioned by her telepathic cat, Tosh, she kept this Elemental power a secret to avoid being an outcast. That was easy to do growing up in the remote grasslands of Zena.

Now as an adult, she had no plans to leave her beloved homeland. So when a strange urge compels her to travel north to an unknown destination, Lina resists this unnatural feeling. But her plans to stay in Zena are taken out of her control when she is kidnapped by gypsies and wakes in a foreign land. The desire to travel north is as strong as ever. She fears she will have no choice but to give into the compulsion. When a raging fire prevents her return home, she realizes she must find out once and for all what or who is summoning her.

On her journey, Lina befriends an odd assortment of allies. Together they battle mystical creatures and unnatural forces despite the fact that such magic had died out over 800 years ago. Lina reluctantly begins to use her innate Elemental power as she becomes more certain that someone is using magic against her. When she discovers the shocking truth, it will change her life in ways she could never imagine.

FREE – Smashwords Coupon Code FE53E

THE ELEMENTAL TRILOGY 

box setGet all three books in the trilogy for one low price. The adventure begins in Summoned (see description above). Lina’s story continues in Quietus and concludes in Destiny.

Quietus:

In the shadow of Ben Dar fortress, Lina learned she was the center of a thousand-year-old prophecy claiming the rebirth of the Elementals – an ancient race dedicated to caring for the Land.

Now Lina and those with traces of Elemental power train in the mountains of South Point in the hopes that they can defeat this unknown danger to the Land. Will her powers be enough to stop the destruction of her homeland?

Destiny: 

Destroying Quietus should have stopped the destruction to the Land. But it hadn’t. Slowly, the barren areas continue to grow destroying everything in their path. None of Lina’s Elemental powers can repair the damage while the Land remains contaminated by magic.
But there is an ancient scepter created by a Learner that may lift this magical barrier. Before Lina can claim it, the scepter is stolen. Now Lina and Val must race to find the scepter and end the destruction to the Land once and for all.

Reduced Price – NOW $2.99 – Smashwords Coupon Code KE47G

Quote of the Week – December 25

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. 

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!
Francis P. Church
From the New York Sun, September 21, 1897

Explaining the Angel Tree/charity to my kids

Every year, there are toy drives during the holidays. Jase’s school does an Angel Tree with our sister school. The sister school picks out families in need of a little help during the holiday season and sends our school the list of what is needed. It could be household items, clothes or toys for the kids.

I want my kids to be generous and caring. I want to encourage them to help those in need of a little help so last year we adopted a family from the tree. We bought blankets for the parents and a toy for the boy as well as two new outfits. Jase didn’t relish the thought of giving clothing for Christmas. I knew he would be less than thrilled

Christmas tree uid 1426680

to receive clothes under the Christmas tree. But I explained that this family needed the clothes more than they needed toys. I am not sure he really understood.

This year, I wanted to get Lexie and Jase a little more involved in the picking of items. I let them each choose one kid from the tree that is close to their age. Before we picked the kids, I sat down and talked to them about how some people have less than we do. Some families struggle to get by and that some kids don’t have a room full of toys like they do.

I don’t think they understand. Even when we participate in food drives throughout the year, they don’t understand that other kids may not know where their next meal is coming from. Sometimes Lexie complains that she is “starving,” but I know she had no clue what it is to go hungry. And really, neither do I. Luckily for our family, we have never been in that situation.

I turned to the Internet to see if there was any advice on how to explain these things to them but didn’t find much that would help. Some sites recommended researching a charity and supporting it. Some sites recommended taking them to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to volunteer. I just don’t feel comfortable with that at this age.

I also found a commentary on Forbes about a man who said he doesn’t give to toy drives. His belief is that giving to toy drives doesn’t FIX any problem. He would rather his money go to finding solutions. Giving to a toy drive is just not the best use of your limited “charity” money in his opinion.

And while I understand the merits of what he is saying – yes, there may be better uses for our money, I still will be participating in toy drives or our local Angel Tree. I have had friends whose families have relied on Angel Trees to provide gifts for their kids. Those children had little and were very appreciative for the small gifts and clothes they received. It helped them out when their families were struggling.

How can making kids happy not be good? Yes, it would be nice to find a way that those kids have a safe place to live or a warm, filling meals each day. But I don’t have it in my power to change those things. Yes, I can research and give my money to a charity that might help them, but I can also make two local kids have a happier Christmas – and hopefully teach my kids about helping others – by participating in the school’s Angel Tree.

Today’s Featured Author: Stacy Eaton

Today I welcome author Stacy Eaton to my blog. Her book, Second Shield, was released earlier this month.

Interview 

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

Some days I wish that I wrote full time, but then I remember if I did that, where would I get my ideas. So for now I will stick to my job as a detective. For almost fourteen years I have been in law enforcement and all of my books take place in that world, although some are also in the paranormal world.

As for what my work day is like, no two days are the same and I am on the go from the moment I step into the station between 6:30 and 7:00 in the morning until I walk out in the late afternoon, usually between 3 and 4. Sometimes I don’t get out until 7 or 8 at night. It all depends on the cases that come in or what evidence is discovered. A few months ago we had a homicide. I worked 16 hour days for 8 days straight.

When it comes to finding time to write, sometimes I will fit in a few hundred words at 5 in the morning. Most times, it’s one weekend a month that I lock myself in my office and write. I have been known to get 18,000 words written in one day. So two of those days is about half a book.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

The voices in my head give me the energy and the need to write.  With my full time job, I live with a lot of stress all the time. Allowing the creative voices inside my head, I can escape the daily drama and move into a world where I have total control on the outcomes, unlike real life where you don’t always have control.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Most ideas are just born. It’s like in the blink of an idea, I go, hey what if… And then I dwell on that what if and it becomes a story. When I wrote Whether I’ll Live or Die, my domestic violence novel, I had the entire plot line figured out in a matter of forty-five minutes. I even knew the title.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I have never outlined a book before. Most times I know exactly how I want the story to start, I know who the characters are and I sit down and write. About a third of the way through, I write the ending. Then I go back and fill in the space in between to get from point A to point B.

Please tell us about your current release.

I have actually released two book very recently. Liveon came out in November and it is a contemporary romance. But, the one I want to share with you today is Second Shield. This one was just released!

Second Shield is another romance and like all my books is set in the law enforcement world. Here’s the blurb for that:

second-shield-AmznDetective Sergeant Mackenzie McAllister leads a team of police investigators. When the new kid, Drew Bradley, joins the squad, she has to teach him the ropes. The chemistry between them is intense, but with Mack being twelve years older, she fights becoming entangled with this young sexy detective.

Drew enters the unit, not only to help with the investigation they are conducting, but to find out what is really going on inside the walls of the unit. Working with the intense and strict Sergeant Mack is invigorating, but between the need to protect her and his second shield, he is at a loss and falling hard.

Together they will uncover the evil from within, and try to deny the chemistry that rages between them. Who in her unit is trying to keep her from finding out the truth? Who will take a life that will draw them closer? And what are the secrets Drew hides behind his Second Shield?

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Strangely enough I did. Although most people in my books are based off people I know, when I wrote Second Shield I had a very specific person in mind.

Earlier this year, I worked a big burglary investigation with another local detective that I didn’t know.  He was awesome. Not only was he great at what he did, but he was a really nice guy, and hotter than sin! He is also 16 years younger than me and you know those fantasies us older woman have of being coveted by a young man, well that is where the idea came from.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

I finished Second Shield one day and the very next day, I wrote three chapter of Second Shield II, The Return.  Things are over between Mack and Drew and hopefully in book 2, I can either move them on their way or give them a happily ever after.  Although I am known for not always giving the reader what they thought they were getting. I have a way of spinning things and changing it up at the last minute.

What I can say is that Mack will be neck deep in another major case and her personal life will be a whirlwind that she needs to find time to deal with.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

 I would have to say Corey from Garda ~ Welcome to the Realm. She is so kick-butt awesome. I describe her in the book as having the face of an angel and a heart to match, but don’t piss her off. Corey is a police officer who falls in love with a married man and then dies in the line of duty. She enters the Realm and trains to be a Garda, a Guardian.  Corey is assigned to protect the man she loved, Mitch, but her feelings for him could cause her to fall from grace. I forgot to mention she has this strange chemistry and connection with Brock, her Garda. I love her story, love her character.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I tend to do most of my writing in my office. Although from time to time, I will write just about anywhere. I have been known to bring my tablet to my daughter’s Tae Kwon Do classes and sit in a corner and type away. Sometimes I have even sat in my car and worked on a chapter. I keep an electronic device with me at all times, because you never know when a thought will hit you that you need to put down.

Thank you so very much for allowing me to come visit with you!!! I am so excited to be here!

About the Author

stacy eatonStacy is a full-time law enforcement officer, currently assigned as the department detective. She enjoys crime scene investigation above all else and has a passion for putting the pieces together to figure out the crime. She is a mother of two, a son proudly serving in the United States Navy and a young daughter who is very close to obtaining her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Her husband is also a law enforcement officer. Stacy enjoys photography, reading and making jewelry when she is relaxing.

You can find out more about Stacy on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy Second Shield on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Using a revision outline to guide editing your novel

Last week, I posted about content editing your novel. In the post, I mentioned that I use a revision outline, so I wanted to share that with you today.

I am now unsure where I got this outline. I think I condensed it down and adjusted one from an online writing class I took years ago. But when I am done with my second draft, this is usually the outline I pull out to ensure I do a complete job of editing.

Even though the notes say to do only one of these at a time, I typically do several at once working on each chapter separately.

Revision Outline

 Do only ONE step at a time. If you find another area that needs work – mark it and then continue with the current fine-tuning project. Work in block sections (defined by chapters). Complete each “block” before going on.

1.)    Structure – develop a clear, compelling plot.

a.)    Look for scenes that are passive/dialogue with no tension.

b.)    Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climatic.

NOTES: Each scene has a beginning, middle and end – there must be a climax/tension spot for each scene – make sure dialogue scenes have tension and are not just “passing time”

2.)    Texture – Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid – SHOW, DON’T TELL

a.)    Look for too much/too little description

b.)    Clichés

c.)    Too many adjectives/adverbs

d.)   Information dumps

e.)    Background or setting info in the wrong place

3.)    Dialogue – Elicit character personality through conversation

a.)    Look at taglines (placement, too many, too few, too much extra information)

b.)    No information dump

c.)    Bland or melodramatic lines

NOTES: Read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural/realistic

4.)    Editing – Tighten pace and continuity

a.)    Look for repetition through implication

b.)    Slow passages

NOTES: Cut, cut, cut! Don’t repeat what the reader already knows or what is implied elsewhere. Be ruthless! Tighten up the copy without fear of shortening the novel.

5.)    Blending – search and destroy any weakness.

a.)    Look for soft spots – unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived.

b.)    Fix by expanding or adding a scene so the novel flows