Teaching the kids to swim

Lexie swimming (one closest to orange cone)

Lexie swimming (one closest to orange cone)

Today, Lexie has her fifth swim lessons. This is her first summer taking swim lessons. She was very excited – and a little nervous – to start them. By the second day, she decided learning to swim wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be.

Every summer, I typically look for swim lessons that fit into our schedule. Many places here seem to offer them the first few weeks of summer break, which is when we are on vacation. Our public parks program offers one near the end of June, but the locations are nowhere near us.

This year I went back to a location we used before when Jase turned 6. They are done through our local school district, which has partnered with Swim Academy to offer these lessons. The goal of the Swim America program is to first off ensure that your child is safe in and around the water. After they have worked on breathing, gliding and floating, they began teaching actual swimming strokes. I think the rate of $75 is reasonable for eight classes. The kids are taught in small groups of about four kids and as the kid progresses in skill, they are moved up to different classes. It is all based on what your child knows and can do.

Originally, only Lexie was going to take swim lessons. Jase was signed up for Star Wars Lego camp during her first week. And then suddenly we got the call that his camp was canceled because they didn’t meet the minimum enrollment. (This happened to him last year for Mad Science camp too. He just has bad luck so far with camps.) Since he was now free of activities, I was able to get him signed up for the same two weeks as Lexie but his class would be the one right after hers.

Jase (middle of pool) getting instructions.

Jase getting instructions.

Really, Jase should be a good swimmer by now, but he isn’t. We started him in once a week swim classes when he was 4. He did that for about 15 months. He loved his classes but never really learned to swim. I don’t think the once a week thing worked. So we did the Swim America lessons when he was 6 and then didn’t follow up the next year with additional classes as they either didn’t have them or couldn’t find the sign up. (Honestly, it is the hardest thing to find the website for signing up for these lessons even if you know they are out there so I don’t know how they get so many people there.)

Quite a few of my friends have said I should put the kids into a swim team, so they can learn to swim. Of course, most of our area swim teams have some sort of test before they let you on the team, and I don’t think my kids would pass it. Plus, I really have no desire to have them on swim team. I want our summers to be relaxing, not spent every morning bright and early at the pool.  (No offense meant to those of you who have kids on swim team or enjoy spending all your time at the pool, but that isn’t for us.)

So we will see how much they will learn in this final week of classes. Lexie has already advanced one skill level, and I expect Jase will too before it is over. Then it is up to us to keep practicing and of course decide if we want to do them next year – if they fit into our vacation schedule.

Today’s Featured Author: Jean Lamb

Today, please welcome fantasy author Jean Lamb to my blog.


Tell us a bit about yourself. 

Jean.I’m nearly 60, and I have over 30 books planned to write. Fortunately, Nana lived to be 97. I work as an accounts payable clerk, and write in my spare time (mainly lunch hours). I grew up reading SF and fantasy, and some of the James Bond books of my mother’s that I sneaked-read. I went to college in the early 1970’s, got a BA in economics (which comes in very handy when creating fantasy worlds), spent four years in the Air Force, and moved to Klamath Falls when I left and my husband got a teacher job there. Have been in K. Falls ever since! Stayed home, though I did some part time stuff, since I was raising kids (one of which was special needs), till 1996 when I began working at the county library. In 2000, I moved up to a full time job with benefits, where I am still working. I am really looking forward to paying off enough bills to retire and write full time!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I have always been a writer in some ways. I was the one who made up good scenarios for the neighborhood gang to play while I was a kid (“rocket ships to Mars by way of the tree house”), soap opera for the Barbie dolls,  the inevitable sad attempt at composing musical while in junior high, the book report on Faust (English translation, I wasn’t that precocious) in high school, the horrible little stories sent to Analog as a teen, some of the research papers—er, well, those were factual and footnoted, but I tried to write them so the teacher might enjoy reading them. I just took the long way around to working hard on publishing my work (though I did work on my first fantasy novel while in the Air Force. It seemed like a way to deal with my commanding officer in a way that would not get me court-martialed). I also had a long, pleasant detour in fandom and fan fiction (I write as excessivelyperky at www.fanfiction.net). But now I’m certain I want to spend the rest of my life torturing heroes—um, composing good fiction in the romance, SF, and fantasy genres.

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

Phoenix in Shadow is the beginning of a fantasy romance series, though future volumes lean harder on the fantasy. Lady Idabel is a young woman with a hot temper seeking revenge against the enemy who killed her family. Tar-Kapel Demytry is a somewhat older man ruling an empire that seems to be falling apart. He’s given up on love (not that he believed in it that much in the first place), and certainly doesn’t expect to meet the woman who will match him just before he leads an army off to war. There are other strong characters as well; Wolfraven, Demytry’s best friend, who needs to learn to leave married women alone; Dar Fennoy, who also loves Lady Idabel; and Lady Ardry, who can’t help making mischief. The main draft is complete, and I’m working on the retyping and filling of plot potholes stage. I hope to have the book ready by the end of this year; I already have a really nice cover for it.

Do you outline your books or just start writing? 

I do like to have at least a general outline. I also put together a chapter outline, which often goes out the window, though I try to keep in the same direction. I often get the best results when I know my last line; then, no matter how I wander off, I usually end up doing exactly what needs to be done to get to that last line. Sometimes I have to work without that last line, but it drives me nuts till I come up with a good one.

Please tell us about your current release. 

Hatchling is a fantasy novel about Tameron dayn Sidian. In the land of Fiallyn Mor, famed for its magic and enchantment, he has no powers and never will. In another family, he’d be all right; there is a place in the country for the non-gifted, if only in the Protector’s Guard. But…he’s the only son of Lord Protector Sidian, and his father plans to make him the heir anyway.

This does not go over well with Sidian’s political rivals, and after an attempted assassination, Tam is sent off to a castle in the north which is supposed to be safer. Well, that’s the idea. Tameron learns a great deal there, but not always what he is supposed to. For instance, there are ‘dragons’ in the hills who are rebels against the established order, which are hunted down like bandits (which sometimes they are). Tam also learns through experience what the common people have to face when their magical overlords are corrupt or vicious, or both.

When he returns from that experience, he is told that he is to marry a young woman who is already in love with somebody else, and who resents being matched with someone who doesn’t have any magic.

He decides that his only alternative is to escape, and find the dangerous world Outside. At least there, he hopes, his genuine skills at swordplay will be valuable. After a long ordeal, he finally discovers that he is free.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I had to do some research in swordplay; my experience in fencing is forty years old! I also had to research horses and their care. I had to draw a map, and then hire someone who actually knew how to draw to make it look like a real map. I also did many pages worth of worldbuilding, because I plan to use the culture of Fiallyn Mor in later volumes (yes, it’s a series). I developed a system of magic based on the elements, as well.

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

Yes, Hatchling is the first book of a six book series. The next volume, The Dragon’s Pearl, takes place in the empire of Talisgran, which fell to bits about fifty years prior to this book and now consists of warring provinces. Tameron must learn a new language, though I give him plenty of time to do so, since he quickly becomes acquainted with some new and unpleasant microbes (he picks up something that’s a child’s disease in the city of Sitat, but he’s no longer a child, and it is Not Fun) and needs some recovery time. He later becomes a mercenary through a) bribery and b) lying about his age, and discovers that sieges are boring, except on payday when people become drunk and disorderly and he’s stuck guarding the pay wagon. He also discovers that boring is sometimes a good thing compared to being attacked once the siege is supposed to be over. Still, he learns a great deal, especially when an older mercenary named Hauk takes him under his wing.

What book are you reading right now?

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. At first I found it a bit heavy going, because the hero is introduced to a huge list of characters—but then, the hero is a bit overwhelmed by them all as well. I keep wondering if there is a betting pool on how long the kid lasts in his new position, but I am enjoying the book immensely so far. See, a half-goblin child of the Emperor (political marriage, didn’t go well, long story) is the only survivor of the imperial family after a terrible accident (nobody seems to think it was anything but an accident so far, but you have to wonder…). He’s jerked from a somewhat abusive situation to one where he has the power of life and death over er, just about everyone, actually. At least in theory. And now he’s undergoing the solitary vigil required of every emperor before his coronation.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I once sat in the back of a T-38 jet and learned how to do a barrel roll. See, I was once an Air Force ROTC cadet at Oregon State University back in mid-1970’s. In 1974 (40 years ago!) I went to field training (4 weeks of boot for officer cadets) at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. As part of our training, we were shipped down to Webb AFB in West Texas in a C-130 (sat on the lovely orange seats in back and tried hard not to think of having to use what they called restroom facilities). During that time, I had the chance to play on a simulator for a bit, and to have a ride in the back of a T-38 jet. Fortunately, my stomach interpreted the experience as ‘fun’ and the pilot was kind enough to show me how to do a barrel roll. Alas, I was too short even for navigator, so for the rest of my four years in the Air Force I flew a desk at Little Rock AFB, but boy, I discovered that flying was a lot of fun.

Book Blurb

Hatchling2Tameron dayn Sidian is the only son of the Protector of Fiallyn Mor. All his relatives, and those of the ruling class of this country, have magic.

But he doesn’t. How can he be his father’s heir without the gifts that would make him worthy? How can he make sure the common people are heard?

Wait, there’s more. He finds out he does have one special gift, but it will mean he’ll live the rest of his life as a prisoner, with all his partners chosen for him.

What can he do now? Find out how he discovers what he must finally do. And someday he’ll know what all his dreams of dragons are about.

First volume of a multi-volume series.

You can purchase Hatchlings on Amazon.



Using slang and dialects in fiction

Using slang in your writing can be a good thing. People often don’t speak in proper English so using slang will make your story more real.

But one thing that can jar a reader out of your story is by using slang or speech patterns that are not consistent with your setting. Suppose you were reading a historical novel taking place in 19th-century England, and you come across this line:

“Huh? You aren’t making any sense, Sam.”

19th century woman uid 1168666Now there is nothing wrong with that line in a modern novel but that was not the manner of speech back in 19th-century England. Anyone reading that line would not believe the characters would speak that way. People during that time spoke more formally. They would not have used the first name of the person they spoke with. A more appropriate line in the story would be:

“I do not believe I know of what you speak, Mr. Watson.”

For many authors, dialogue can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. You want it to sound authentic and to do so you need to include regional accents and speech patterns. However, if you do so incorrectly, you can ruin your story.

The best advice is always to write about an area you know. But you may want to branch out so spend time studying the dialect of that region. And if you are going to use a particular dialect, make sure you use it consistently. If your character speaks with a heavy southern drawl and suddenly sounds like he is from Boston, your readers are going to notice.

Now in a fictional fantasy world, the inhabitants probably will not use modern-day slang. No one is going to say “awesome.” So as a fantasy writer, I am free to make up my own dialects and slang but have to make sure my reader is going to understand what the characters are saying and of course use any slang consistently throughout the story.

And I can’t mention slang without a brief mention about swearing. This is something that can give a particular flavor to speech – either by its absence or frequency. But again, you need to make sure it is something that is appropriate to your character and setting.

As a fantasy writer, I have often had to come up with some phrase or “swear” word for my characters to say as I felt that the warriors would be more authentic if they swore at least occasionally.  In this case, not using swear words would seem odd to my reader. So I had to come up with some words or phrases for them to use in the heat of the moment.

And it isn’t just the slang or dialects that you have to pay attention to. The behavior of our characters needs to be appropriate to the time period or region which you are writing about. Different countries, different races, and even different religions are going to have different standards of what is “normal” regarding how everyone behaves.

These things need to come naturally to your characters and thus need to be natural to you. This means you need to do your research. You need to know the appropriate uses of slang terms. You need to know the customs and behavior of the region and time period you are writing about. Without this research, you are sure to jar you readers out of the story and totally lose your credibility as an author.

Leaving puppy Sadie Rose while on vacation

Back in October before we adopted our Cocker Spaniel puppy, Sadie Rose, I suggested we hold off on looking for a puppy. I knew that we had several trips planned, including two in June. I thought it would be best to wait and get a puppy AFTER all of our trips.

The puppy bug had everyone, and I was out voted.

IMG_1593So we adopted Sadie Rose. She has been a great dog and has fit nicely into the family. The kids love her. But what were we going to do when we went out of town?

Our first thought was to have her stay at my in-laws’ place. They have two dogs, and we thought she could easily stay with them.

When we asked, my in-laws said that one of their dogs is a digger. He sometimes digs under the fence. They were worried Sadie Rose would get out. Their property is large enough that it would be hard for them to check everywhere the other dog might dig. So my in-laws decided that they would drive to our house daily to check on Sadie Rose and our three cats.

P1030299Because Sadie Rose is still a puppy, we don’t let her have free reign of the house. We have a gate up to keep her in our kitchen and dinette area. And she has a dog door allowing her unlimited access to the backyard so daily visits would work.

Our first trip was a short weekend trip to Dallas to visit the Lego Discovery Center. My mother-in-law came over for an hour on each day we were gone to give Sadie some company. Sadie was eight months old at the time. She did great.

But that was only two days. The real test was coming. We would be gone for eight days at the beginning of June for our trip to Disney World.

On our first short trip, we left her a new bone to chew. This time we left her with a few new toys and a bigger bone to chew. We hoped this would keep her busy while we were gone. We also left on the radio to provide some sounds for her. (The radio is on most days so nothing new except it wouldn’t be turned off at night.)

During our trip, we received a few text updates that Sadie was doing fine as were the cats. This helped the kids – though honestly, we were in Disney World and they were often too busy to worry about the puppy. By the end of our trip, we were eager to get back and see her. She was so happy to see us.

I knew a few days after our return that it was probably now not even a memory that we were gone. She is just happy to have us home and to play her favorite game – laser tag. But we had one additional short trip – four days to the beach for my husband’s annual legal conference.

As before, she did great. Nothing was destroyed, and I know she loved the extra attention my in-laws lavished on her. But she couldn’t be happier than with us at home. And with no more trips planned this year we will just be home raising our puppy.

Today’s Featured Author: Victoria Christopher Murray

Author Victoria Christopher Murray just finished up her virtual blog tour for her latest book, Forever an Ex, which was just released on Tuesday. Take a look at it….

Book Blurb

forever and exThree Los Angeles women who’ve helped each other overcome heartbreak are reunited eight years later when their troublesome exes come back into the picture in this follow up to Victoria Christopher Murray’s bestselling novel The Ex Files.

Sheridan, Kendall, and Asia first bonded when they met seven years ago at a church prayer support group and now, their friendship has blossomed into a strong sisterhood. They’ve helped each other through the tragedies of their breakups and together, they’ve celebrated their triumphs. But now, their exes are back, wreaking havoc on lives they’ve work so hard to rebuild.

Sheridan has found love again after her ex-husband left her for a man. But old wounds are reopened when her ex-husband appears with his fiancée—a woman! And all of Sheridan’s insecurities and doubts come rushing back. Kendall’s former husband is now married to Kendall’s sister, Sabrina. And though Kendall has refused to interact with either one in the last seven years, she’s forced to reunite with Sabrina when their father is diagnosed with cancer. Asia has done her best to move away from her married boyfriend, a former star with the LA Lakers. But when they share a kiss, old desires are rekindled and Asia decides that it’s time for her and Bobby Johnson to get back together again.

About the Author 

VCMVictoria Christopher Murray always knew she would become an author, even as she was taking an unlikely path to that destination. A native of Queens, Victoria first left New York to attend Hampton University where she majored in Communication Disorders. After graduating, Victoria attended New York University where she received her MBA.

Victoria originally self published her first novel, Temptation and in 2000, Time Warner published that novel. Temptation made numerous best sellers list and remained on the Essence bestsellers list for nine consecutive months. In 2001, Temptation was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literature.

Since Temptation, Victoria has written fifteen other adult novels, including: JOY, Grown Folks Business, The Ex Files, The Deal, the Dance and the Devil, her newest novel, Never Say Never and the popular Jasmine Cox Larson Bush series.  In 2012, Victoria joined ReShonda Tate Billingsley to write two collaborations, Sinners and Saints, and Friends and Foes which pits Victoria’s Jasmine character against Rachel Adams, a first lady created by ReShonda.

Victoria has received numerous awards including the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being a pioneer in African American Fiction.  Since 2007, Victoria has won six African American Literary Awards for best novel, best Christian fiction and Author of the Year – Female.  Her 2013 NAACP Image Award nomination for Destiny’s Divas was her second Image Award nomination.

In 2008, Victoria’s first novels in her Christian fiction teen series – The Divine Divas – were published and were optioned to become a television series.  She is currently in negotiations for her novel, The Ex Files, to become a movie.

With over one million books in print, Victoria is one of the country’s top African American contemporary authors.

Along with Best Selling Author, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Victoria is also the co-founder of Brown Girl Publishing.

You can find out more about Victoria on her website as well as follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can purchase Forever an Ex on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Amazon Author Central is an author must

As an author, there are numerous sites and resources out there but one that definitely should not be ignored is Amazon’s Author Central. (Amazon after all is the largest e-book retailer out there.)

Once you log in, you will see the Welcome screen that invites you to update your author page. This is more than just listing your author bio (which of course should be on the page). You can add photos, blog feeds, videos and even includes your latest Tweets or Facebook posts.

Author page amazon

***If you are an author, you NEED to have an Amazon Author page. Readers want to be able to find information about you, plus it easily links them to your other books. They need a way to connect with you and this is one of the easiest places to list all your links, news and events. (I am always amazed at how many authors, and not just newbie authors either, that don’t have an Amazon Author page. It is free, so there is NO excuse not to have one.)

Now back to my information on Amazon Author Central…Once you have logged in…

Click to view your list of books to ensure that Amazon is showing all the books you have written. If any books are missing, simply click the “Add more books” button, which will bring up a search screen for you to locate your other books.

books by SLN

Clicking on any book in your book list will bring up details about that book. Here you can edit the product description, add snippets from professional reviews, add notes from the author, inside flap or back cover information as well as your author bio. Whatever is entered in these sections will appear on this book’s Amazon page.

If you flip to the Book Extras tab (remember we are still looking at just one of your published books), you will see a list of extras you can add by visiting shelfari.com. Shelfari is a community of authors, Amazon customers and Selfari users. On the site, you can include series information, character descriptions, and memorable quotes. If information is added, readers can see a link for Book Extras on their Kindle or Kindle app. (Doesn’t work on Kindle for your PC though.)

OK, back to the home page of Author Central real quick. You can also find Author Central news here as well as links to Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Audiobook Creation Exchange and other areas that might interest you.

At the top of the page, in the blue bar, you will see Sales Info. Clicking on this brings up a new screen where you can select to view information on all your books or just one select title. Clicking on “Rank over time” will let you see mini charts of your books’ sales history, their current rank, and how much they have moved today. This is updated hourly.

rank amazon

By clicking on any title, you can see that books detailed information. You can see the sales information for the past two weeks, one month, six months, one year, two year or all time. This information can help you evaluate how well any marketing endeavors have fared.

Search sale info

The Rank section shows your author rank on Amazon. You can do it for All books or break it down by the genre you are listed under. Again, you can select the period of time to view.

The last tab is Customer Reviews. Here you can see each review on Amazon about your books.

Author Central gives you a wealth of information and best of all it is free. There is no reason any author out there is not using this tool – if for nothing else then use it for your Amazon Author page. Just remember you need to keep it up to date.