Planning fun activities to keep the kids busy this summer

School has been out for the past 10 days. That means it is time to write my annual “What we are doing this summer” post. The kids are now 10 and 13. As they get older, it gets harder and harder to find things that they want to do. But if left to their own devices, they would…be on their devices or the Xbox all day. So, to give them a break from the electronics and to put an end to the bickering that always seems to crop up lately, I have come up with some things we will be doing this summer.

Water Park/Pool

I love the free option of our neighborhood pool, and we plan to go there a few times a week. I prefer to go in the morning because we often have the place to ourselves, but if we go in the afternoon, we have a better chance of running into classmates or friends. Either way the kids have fun.

We also have a season pass to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. While it is too hot to enjoy the theme park rides during the hot summer days, the water park offers a fun afternoon.

Zoo/Bowling

In addition to the season pass to Six Flags, we also have a membership to the Zoo. As the kids get older, the zoo holds a little less appeal, but we will make it there at least once this summer to see the new dinosaur exhibit. We also have a membership to a local bowling alley that allows us to come every day if we want to bowl up to three games a day. That sound like a little much but a weekly trip is in our plans.

Life Skills

Two summers ago, we went over some “life skills” which included laundry, bank/credit cards, renting vs owning, cooking, and other things to help them survive out on their own. Since, they need the practice, we will continue with having them do laundry and some additional cleaning chores. And Jase has expressed an interest in doing some more cooking lessons.

Violin/Typing/Cursive lessons

During the summer, getting Jase to practice his violin instead of playing video games can be hard but luckily, he still has his weekly tutoring sessions, and Dr. K will certainly expect him to practice between meetings.

Jase also has decided that this summer he wants to learn to touch-type. I have found a few online free programs, so we will be working on their typing skills. And lastly, I want to work on cursive writing, which we tried to work on in a previous summer break. While Lexie likes writing her name in cursive, Jase doesn’t see the point. But neither kid is good at it, and neither one can read cursive so time for more lessons.

While in the past, I have had them do school work in the summer to avoid the Summer Slide, I don’t have any concrete plans this year to have them do school work, but I figure we might get a bit in here and there.

Trips

And in between these activities, we do have two trips planned. The first is a short three-day trip to Bastrop, Texas. This is a work trip for my husband as he attends the annual city attorney’s conference. While he hears lectures, the kids and I go to the water park, ride bikes and enjoy the other amenities the resort has to offer.

And then in August we have a family Alaskan cruise planned. This trip will be more than just our family of four. My parents and brother are also coming on the trip. We have some fun excursions planned, plus the kids are just excited to be going to Alaska. I will be sure to post more about this as it gets closer.

Overall, I think I will have enough option available to keep the kids busy rather than bored…or more importantly off their electronics for some of the summer.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Joanne Otto

Please welcome author Joanne Otto to my blog. Joanne is on a virtual book tour to promote her books The You-Song and Daughter of Jerusalem. 

The You-Song

The You-Song celebrates, in a way young children can understand, the unique and vital place each of us occupies in God’s world and encourages them to fill their place in it with joy. Written by a teacher who’s helped many children overcome reading challenges, “The You-Song” is user-friendly, consisting of words that are either familiar or easy to decode. Lavishly illustrated with nearly 50 heart-warming photos, it’s also fun to read aloud to pre-readers.

Juvenile Nonfiction

Daughter of Jerusalem

Daughter of Jerusalem” takes its 21st-century readers on a journey back to the first-century world of a young rabbi named Yeshua—better known to us as Jesus. Mara, the young heroine of this story, gets to mingle with the crowds who come to hear him teach during his visits to Jerusalem and, finally, to meet him face to face in a brief, life-changing encounter—one that comes at no small cost to herself. For middle-grade readers who want to use the book as a springboard for deeper study, there are Bible references and questions on each chapter, as well as a glossary. For others, the story itself will be the full journey.

Christian Fiction

About the Author

Joanne Otto is a lifelong student of the Bible who has taken four exciting tours of Bible lands and done extensive research, including numerous courses. She has taught foreign languages and English and more recently, as an academic language therapist, has helped dyslexic children strengthen their reading and writing skills. Also a music lover and amateur pianist, she especially enjoys accompanying singers.

You can find out more about Joanne on her website.

You can purchase Joanne’s books on Amazon.

Investing in an eye-catching book cover

This post is the fortieth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I discussed two components of your book cover – the title and your author name (and whether a pen name would be beneficial.) Today, I want to cover the designing of your book cover.

The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the image. The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

Things you want in a cover:

  • Simple, easy to understand
  • Having an impact or something that grabs the reader’s attention
  • If it is for an e-book, make sure it looks good at thumbnail size.

Things to avoid:

  • Too many things on the cover/clutter
  • Bad layout where title and author names are in bad location or size. (If you are famous, your name could be bigger than the title but typically you want the title to stand out more than your name.)

Now you may already have an idea about what you want on your cover, but if not, you may want to visit a book store or browse Amazon to see what style of cover grabs your attention.

If you have the resources and the know-how, there is nothing wrong with creating your own cover if it looks professional and is eye-catching. But most authors are better off if they let an expect design their cover. There are a variety of different designers out there offering a wide variety of cover designs.

To find a list of cover designers, check out this list on Smashwords. From there, you can look at each designer’s portfolio and pricing. (Some of the more popular ones have really long wait lists for covers!) The process will go easier if you have an idea of what you want on your cover,  but if you have no clue, most designers will be able to show you a few options based on your story synopsis or sample chapters.

Unless you are going to pay someone to draw your cover, most designers are going to be working with graphics and stock photos. If you want an idea of what is out there, check out stock photo sites such as istockphotodreamstime and bigstockphoto.

There are even designers that have pre-made covers that they just drop in your title and name. I am not saying these are bad if you just happen to find something that fits your book perfectly but in general, I would rather have something designed specifically for my book.

Take some time to look at covers of popular books and find out what you like. Think about what you think will entice a reader to pick up or click on your book. And then take the time to create a profession design or have someone do it for you. The time and effort that you devote to designing your cover will definitely pay off in the end.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

Learning to deal with tween behavior

Last month my son became a teenager, but so far it my ten-year old daughter who seems to have the teenage attitude. With her I get the exasperated “I know” or the sigh and eye roll or her palm slapped to her forehead. And I am pretty over it. It has become where I don’t even want to talk to her at times.

I’ve written before about Lexie’s quest to be different. She has always tried to find what makes her unique whether it is her atypical anatomy or her ability to do something such as draw, heal fast or whatever. Many of her “accomplishments” are more in her head than actual differences. She strives to be different or in many cases “better” than someone else.

And part of me gets that. We all like to think we are different and unique. And we are…to a point. But Lexie’s behavior is now expanding to saying everyone else is treated better than she is. She worries that no one likes her at school even though many kids greet her by name as we approach in the mornings.

She thinks that we treat her brother better than her. And our reactions to him are different. But that is because he is a different person. His attitude and his needs are not the same as hers. I will admit we sometimes sigh (or snap) when she has gotten out of bed for the third, tenth or who-knows-what number time to come tell us something unimportant or to ask a question that clearly didn’t need answering right at that moment. When her brother does the same thing (which happens far less often) we do behave different because when he does it something is usually concerning him rather than it coming across as an action to delay bedtime.

I began writing this post after a really trying afternoon when I was just fed up with Lexie and her attitude. Everything seemed to be about her when the afternoon was and should have been about her brother. (It was his birthday – in case you were wondering.)

I tried looking up some advice on the internet, but it was hard to know just what to look up. I looked up teen behavior, sibling jealousy, ADHD, and whatever else I could to think of for tips on how to better deal with Lexie because I know I am not handling her behavior as well as I could. Here is the tips and advice I picked up that I thought might help my situation.

  • Stay calm. Stop, take a deep breath (or two or three) and continue calmly.
  • Ignore her shrugs, eye-rolls or sighs as long as she is generally behaving like I’d like her to.
  • Focus on my child’s behavior. Avoid comments about your child’s personality or character. Instead of saying “You’re rude,” try something like, “I feel hurt (disrespected) when you speak to me like that.”
  • Give her praise when she communicates in a positive way.
  • Emphasize her strengths.
  • Pick my battles. Sometimes you have to let the small things go and concentrate on bigger issues.
  • Realize that her way of doing or perceiving something is not always the same way I would do or perceive the same situation.
  • Listen to her concerns and ask questions instead of insisting her view is incorrect. Help her find solutions to her concerns or just listen and empathize. Her problems and struggles will seem big to her.
  • Before offering input, ask is she wants to hear it. (Do you want to hear what I think about this?)
  • Set aside time to talk or spend time with her.
  • Try not to get exasperated by her behavior. Take her concerns seriously.
  • Remember that her ADHD may make her relationships with others more difficult. Focus on making one good friend.
  • To not show favoritism, listen openly to all sides. “Thanks for sharing. Now I want to hear your brother’s side.” This will allow her to know that I value each child’s opinion.

All of these sound good, but will I remember them next time Lexie pushes my buttons? Only time will tell. Or instead of counting to ten it might be best if I come back and read this post to remind myself of ways to better handle my pre-teen.

Today’s Featured Author – Haris Orkin

Please welcome author Haris Orkin to my blog. His debut novel, You Only Live Once, a comic thriller, was released in March 2018. It is a contemporary take on Don Quixote as a mental patient believes he’s a James Bond-like super spy. This new release already has 19 5-star reviews!

Book Blurb

James Flynn is an expert shot, a black belt in karate, fluent in four languages and irresistible to women. He’s also a heavily medicated patient in a Los Angeles psychiatric hospital. Flynn believes his locked ward is the headquarters of Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that he is a secret agent with a license to kill.

When the hospital is acquired by a new HMO, Flynn is convinced that the Secret Service has been infiltrated by the enemy. He escapes to save the day, and in the process, Flynn kidnaps a young Hispanic orderly named Sancho.

This crazy day trip turns into a very real adventure when Flynn is mistaken for an actual secret agent. Paranoid delusions have suddenly become reality, and now it’s up to a mental patient and a terrified orderly to bring down an insecure, evil genius bent on world domination.

About the Author

You Only Live Once is the debut novel by Haris Orkin, who has had successful careers as an ad writer, screenwriter, playwright, game writer, narrative director and voice director. He received a BA from Beloit College and an MFA in Creative Writing from USC. His produced screenplays include Save the Dog (Disney Sunday Night movie) and A Saintly Switch (directed by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Vivica A. Fox and David Alan Grier). Haris has also written scripts for Universal, Columbia, 20th Century Fox and Paramount. His play, Dada was produced at The American Stage, The Nebraska Rep, and the La Jolla Playhouse. His Nobody Lives Forever was performed at The John Harmon Theater and The Player’s Club in New York City. In 2005, Haris broke into the world of game narrative with the script for Dungeons and Dragons: Dragonshard, and he has written eight games since. Red Alert 3 (2008) earned Haris a Writer’s Guild Award nomination for best video game script while Mafia 3 (2017) garnered him a BAFTA Award nomination. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (2009) was released to strong sales and excellent reviews.  Dead Island (2011) and Dying Light (2015) were the top selling titles for their years.

You can purchase You Only Live Once on Amazon.

Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

This post is the thirty-ninth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

If you are going to publish a book, even if it is only an e-book, you will need a cover. If you are going with a traditional publisher, the design of your cover may or may not have your input. If you are going the self-publishing route, the cover design is up to you.

Before we go into the details of cover design, I want to go over two things that will appear on your book cover – the book title and your author name.

Book Title

Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. The title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short, so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover.

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works.

Here are a few tips about selecting a fiction title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person looking at your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked. You shouldn’t name your science fiction masterpiece something that sounds like it belongs to an Old Western.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a title that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same title, you may want to consider something a little more unique. And, of course, do not use a title that already belongs to a famous book.

Just remember there are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting a title. For every piece of advice you may get, you will be able to think of a title that goes against it. And while you may love a title, someone else may think it stinks. So in the end, I say to go with what you love. It is after all your book.

Author Names/Pen Names

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you or search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well-known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brian Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check Amazon to see if there is already an author by that name. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.

Now that we have covered your title and author name, next week, I’ll go over cover art and layout.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions