Y is for Yelling #AtoZchallenge

Sometimes it seems the only way to get through to my kids is to raise my voice. It is as if they tune me out when I tell them something and only respond when I yell.

YToday we are up to letter Y in the A to Z Challenge, and I wanted to blog a little about yelling. I am pretty sure every parent out there – even those with awesome amounts of patience – has yelled at their kids once or twice (if not more often).

No, these aren’t moments that any parent is proud of, and I honestly feel crappy when I have yelled at my kids. But like I said, sometimes it seems the only way to get their attention.

I think my problem is that I sometimes have too high of an expectation for my kids. I forget that they are still learning, and that they do not think the same way as I do.

I recall reading a blog where a mother decided to go the opposite way and try whispering instead. She had success with it, so I may have to give that a try because yelling certainly is NOT an effective way to communicate. I know that by yelling, I am not modeling good behavior for my kids. I am teaching them that it is okay to yell. It is teaching them that they don’t have to listen until someone yells. It teaches them that they are not worth speaking to in civil tones. None of these things are my intention.

I wish it was as easy as saying, “I am no longer going to yell.” But it isn’t. I know this habit will be a hard one to break. All I have to do is look at my kids to remember why I want to stop this horrible pattern.

Teaching your child the letter X – #AtoZchallenge

XToday on the A to Z challenge, it is the letter X. This is the one letter that worried me the most on this challenge. Not only are there a limited number of words that start with X that I can write about, this letter falls on a day when I typically talk about a parenting issue.

My husband suggested X-rays but I haven’t ever had one, and neither have the kids so that would be a short topic. I guess I could have talked about the X-box but instead, I decided to talk just about the letter X. Yep. We are talking about the 24th letter in our alphabet.

This letter is easy to teach in the terms of how to write it. Just two quick strokes and you can do either a capital or lowercase X. (And once you learn how to make an X you can work on your pirate map as we all know “X” marks the spot.)

However, when it comes to words that start with X, you end up with X-ray or X-Box. Other words such as xylophone, Xerox or Xavier have a Z sound instead of an X. That certainly makes it hard to explain to your preschooler.

So I guess the best way to teach the letter X is to tell your child that X is unusual. The actual sound of the letter X is a combination of the letters “k” and “s.” It often comes in the middle or end of a word such as in fox, fix, ax, and box.

You know as I reflect upon it, there is not much to say about the letter X other than it is a tricky one to teach in the area of pronunciation. And now that the letter X is done, there are only two more days in this challenge.

W is for Writing Challenges #AtoZChallenge

WWe are almost at the end of the A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is W. I could write about writer’s block, but I have already covered that in a past post. So I decided to talk about Writing challenges.

I like participating in writing challenges such as the A to Z challenge. (This is technically a blogging challenge, but blogging involves writing so it qualifies in my book.) If I have the time and I see a writing challenge, I will certainly participate. (The key there would be having the time – see my Juggling Jobs post.)

My favorite challenges have been by my local newspaper. Twice they have asked readers to send in a “story” written on Twitter. Yep, that is telling a “story” in only about 125 characters. (It can’t be 140 characters since you have to include their hashtag.)

The first one was in October 2012 when they asked for horror stories for Halloween. Here are two of mine that were published in the newspaper.

His fangs lock on the zombie’s neck. Growling, he thrashes his head as he saves me. Never walk in a graveyard without your dog.

Tap, drag, tap, drag. The harried breathing gets louder as it nears. A zombie? A ghoul? What can it be? Oh, it is just Grandpa.

And the last challenge was this January when they asked us to write romance stories. Here is the one that was published this time. (To see the other, click here.)

Kids arguing, baby crying, dog barking, washing machine overflowing. He comes home with flowers and an “I love you, honey”

Yes, writing challenges can be a great way to stir up some creativity and these Twitter challenges luckily don’t take up a lot of my time. I can only hope our newspaper will come up with a few more.

V is for Vacation #AtoZchallenge

VToday on the A to Z Challenge we are up to V. Since summertime is nearly upon us, I thought vacations would be an excellent topic.

We are planning a trip to Disney World in Florida this June. As anyone who has planned a vacation to Disney World knows, this is not a cheap endeavor, especially if you plan to stay on Disney’s property as we are. Last year, we chose to stay closer to home. We went to Corpus Christi for just a few days and actually ended up tying the trip into a conference my husband was attending.

Actually, that is typically how we vacation. Or I should say I and the kids vacation. We tag along every summer to South Padre Island for a three-day conference that my husband attends. We spend our time at the beach while he is at the meeting. But my husband doesn’t get much of a vacation that way.

Here are the kids and I at Disney World in 2012. My husband didn't join us because he started his own law firm 6 weeks before the trip. My mom joined us instead.

Here are the kids and I at Disney World in 2012. My husband didn’t join us because he started his own law firm 6 weeks before the trip. My mom joined us instead.

So this year’s trip to Disney World will be his first real vacation in quite a while. See when you have your own business as he has, it is harder to take off time from work. He is the sole attorney in his practice so if he isn’t billing clients, no money is coming in.

But even for those who do get paid vacation time (and roughly ¼ of Americans don’t get a paid vacation), taking off time is not always easy to do. According to an Expedia survey, the average American employee has two vacation days left over at the end of the year.

Reasons for not taking their full vacation time included not having the money to take a trip to not wanting to be away from work because they think it will affect raises or promotions or simply there is too much work to be done that they can’t be gone.

This last excuse is why many years my husband didn’t take his vacation days. When he worked for a law firm, there were always cases to be worked on, and he rarely took a day off. Those that he did take were often used for medical reasons.

So now that he is his own boss, I hope to get him to take a day here or there as well as our eight-day trip to Disney World because after all, everyone needs a break from work now and again.

Today’s Featured Author: Gabrielle Prendergast

Today I have young adult author Gabrielle Prendergast on my site discussing her latest book, Capricious, which came out April 1st.

Interview

Please tell us about your current release.

CAPRICIOUS, which is the sequel to last year’s AUDACIOUS, came out April 1 from Orca Books Publishers. It’s a YA novel in verse about a teen girl, Ella, who despite a desire to be accepted by her peers, can’t seem to conform to the norms of high school life. Both her attempts to fit in and her non-conformist behavior repeatedly backfire on her, not to mention her romantic attraction to the wrong boys, but the strength of her convictions and her good heart help her towards a greater self-acceptance.

Both AUDACIOUS and CAPRICIOUS stand out because they are written as a collection of free verse and formal poems, but also because they deal with subject matter not often seen in YA books. Islam and atheism, modesty and exhibitionism, art and censorship, and the devastating consequences “mean girl” bullying all form part of the series.

What inspired you to write this book?

Many YA books feature popular girls with healthy and emotionally supportive female friendships, while boys are often portrayed as the villains. This was not my experience at high school so I wanted to write about a different kind of girl – the awkward, unpopular, slightly prickly girl. Ella is popular with boys because she’s funny and open with them, and makes them feel respected and admired.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I did quite a lot of research and consultation about Islam , the Arabic language and Palestinian culture, because Ella’s love interest, Samir is a  Muslim of Palestinian descent. I also researched laws with regards to child pornography and “sexting” as this forms part of the plot of AUDACIOUS. For CAPRICIOUS I consulted an expert on electronic communication aides used by people with speech disabilities. I also consulted someone about Jewish funerals.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Ella is certainly based on high school me and her art teacher is based on my favorite high school teacher.  Ella’s mother shares some qualities with my mother. David is based on a high school friend of mine, a hockey jock with a secret sensitive side. Marika, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, is inspired partly of a classmate from university who was kind of a rocker chick and slightly raunchy. I feel like Marika might grow up to be like her. I’m often inspired by real people and real events from my life.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

I “pantsed” the whole first book so a lot of things happened that I didn’t expect. For example I didn’t know that it was going to be called AUDACIOUS or that a piece of explicit art was going to be the main plot point. I outlined CAPRICIOUS as taking place over nearly a year but only got about four months through the plot by the time I realized I had the whole book. My publisher is interested in another book in this series so I think I’ll just keep going with all the other stuff I had planned.

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

I would definitely be Ella in CAPRICIOUS because she has two hot boyfriends! I don’t think high school and college years should be wasted on monogamy. There’s plenty of time for that when you get married. Why not enjoy your young body with your intimate friends? As long as everything is safe and consensual, where’s the harm? I was a serial monogamist before I got married and I turned down a lot of very sexy boys and men for the sake boyfriends who turned out to not be worthy. I regret that!

Book Description

capriciousElla’s grade-eleven year was a disaster (Audacious), but as summer approaches, things are looking up. She’s back together with her brooding boyfriend, Samir, although they both want to keep that a secret. She’s also best buddies with David and still not entirely sure about making him boyfriend number two. Though part of her wants to conform to high school norms, the temptation to be radical is just too great. Managing two secret boyfriends proves harder than Ella expected, especially when Samir and David face separate family crises, and Ella finds herself at the center of an emotional maelstrom. Someone will get hurt. Someone risks losing true love. Someone might finally learn that self-serving actions can have public consequences. And that someone is Ella.

About the Author

Gabrielle Prendergast is a UK-born Canadian/Australian who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband and daughter. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. A part-time teacher and mentor, Gabrielle blogs and rants at www.angelhorn.com  and www.versenovels.com . She also designs book covers for indie authors and publishers. You can see her work at www.coveryourdreams.net .

You can purchase Capricious on Amazon.

Unicorns and other mythical creatures #AtoZchallenge

The steed stepped into the clearing. Its white hide glowed in the moonlight. The creature lifted its head. A twisted silvery horn protruded from its forehead. Its long mane waved as the wind blew. My mouth dropped as I stared at the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Then the unicorn turned and moved forward, disappearing into the forest again.

UYes, today is the letter U on the A to Z challenge and as a fantasy writer, I had to go with unicorns and other mythical creatures as my topic.

I most often think of a unicorn as a horse – usually white – with a horn. However, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead.”

There is quite a bit of lore around unicorns from them preferring a virgin’s touch to their horn’s magical healing power. But the great thing about being a writer is that there are no rules. You can make up your own rules about unicorns, Pegasus, mermaids, fairies, dragon and all sorts of other creatures. (For a great comprehensive list of mythical creatures, check out this website.)

And it isn’t just about adjusting mythical creatures to your storyline, as a writer you are free to do anything your imagination can come up with including creating your own creatures. In my trilogy, I not only have telepathic cats and dragons but many creatures that I created. My two favorite would be the Gunn (pronounced like the weapon) and Quietus (see Saturday’s post on my pronunciation error when I chose this as its name which is also the title of the second book in the series).

The Gunn (which appears in Summoned) is a creature created by magic for protection. It’s a huge beast, standing over six feet tall with arms and legs as thick as tree trunks. It has black hair covering its body and an impenetrable hide (except in one location because every creature needs a way to be killed). It has sharp black claws and fangs, but its deadliest feature is the light-green venom that it shoots from its mouth, which kills (quite gruesomely) on contact.

Quietus was also created by someone with magic. The creature’s only desire is to devour everything in its path. It is a small, purple insect which of course is nearly impossible to kill. Its bite is poisonous. This creature causes a lot of havoc and is prominent in both Quietus and Destiny.

As much as I enjoy creating my own creatures, I have only created one for my current work in progress. But I am only halfway through the first draft, so there is plenty of time to use my imagination and branch out from just unicorns and dragons.