Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

COTT's Staff Clash

Congratulations to Delia Latham for taking the crown in last week's Staff Clash. Two anonymous COTT staffers went into the ring and readers had another hard choice to make. Some said:
  • "This was a cruel choice!! LOL! They were both excellent."
  •  (About Delia's excerpt): "Beautiful words expressing emotion and making the reader want more."
  •  "Intense emotions on both excerpts! Great job!"
  •  "Terrific excerpts!"
  • (About Katie's excerpt): "I need to know Wulf better! I have a feeling he's dreamy."
  • "Awesome clash with two well-written, emotion-packed scenes! Great job, authors!"

Of course, nobody knew at the time that those authors were Delia Latham and Katie McCurdy.

Both are recent additions to the staff. Delia has come on board as a Blog Alliance Correspondent, and Katie is the official Talent Scout. (Looks like COTT scouted some talent when they found these two gems.)

This fun excursion was a great interjection into the usual good times shared at Clash of the Titles. This week sees another fierce challenge with nameless authors nominated by COTT staff. Be sure to head over there and vote now!

And in just 2 weeks, the party begins! Mark your calendars for October 10th and be ready to play for extra prizes all month long as COTT celebrates it's first anniversary. Your vote will determine which of the year's winning authors will receive the ultimate honor: the Laurel Award.

* by Assistant Editor of COTT, Michelle Massaro 

Monday, September 26, 2011

My School Monday: Sabbath Week

"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;"-- Psalm 23:2

Happy Monday! This week is our first "Sabbath week" so we have the week off! What's great is that Kait will still learn but may not realize it.

This week, she'll have the chance to learn to enjoy the changing seasons, to take time for the things and people that matter, to slow down and soak up life. That's my hope and plan anyway. She does still have theater class, horseback riding lesson, and choir this week as well. Somehow I don't think she'll mind ;) (as long as there's no math or history or science! lol)

This week is also my time to take a breath, examine what is and isn't working in our learning plan, and get some other things done. I'm so grateful for discovering this concept of Sabbath weeks. I can't wait!

So... it's time to decorate the house for fall. I've got my garland up, and the scarecrow will soon come down from the rafters to stand in greeting by the door. I'll also continue working on my cabinets, and crocheting scarves. I already got to sit down and watch Seven Brides For Seven Brothers on Saturday with four special people and that was a wonderful afternoon. Great kick-off to this week of rest.

I hope you all have as fabulous a week ahead as I am anticipating. What are you up to?

"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." -- Exodus 20:11 NASB (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Whatevah Wednesday: Kitchen Cabinets

A couple weeks ago I was in a fit of discontent. Everywhere I looked I saw things I wanted to change or fix. The yard is full of holes thanks to the dogs, there's not enough space for our homeschool supplies so they're piled up all over the place, the tile on the bathroom walls is tacky. I HATED MY HOUSE!

My daughter astutely pointed out that I was sounding like Madame Blueberry.

It's true that we need to be content with what we have and not shake a fist at God for not supplying us with a house like so-n-so has. But there's also nothing wrong with sprucing up!

So I began a mission.

I decided to redo our kitchen cabinets myself.  Now let me tell you, this big job has turned out to be a HUGE job. And I'm here to document it for you. (Lucky for you all, this will take only a couple minutes of your time and not a couple weeks like it has for me.)

First, the "before" picture. >>>>>>

What you can't see in this picture is how disgusting the cabinets really are. They have years of kitchen gunk built up in the creases. I've cleaned them with degreaser and old toothbrushes but stuff just seems to stick to this old paint. It's bubbled and peeling in places, too. So it's not just that we're a messy family of six, it's also probably not the best paint job.

Okay, here's a wider shot. (Ahhh, I can't believe I'm doing this!) Yes, this is my kitchen. In this shot I've already removed the two cabinet doors I'm starting with. Okay, back to the paint...

I couldn't simply work over it. I needed to strip it. So I bought some paint stripper and got to work, figuring it would come right off.  LOLOLOLOL

Years Days later, I was able to prime and paint the two cabinet doors I started on. This took time because each coat had to dry for a few hours before the next one, and I had to do two sides. And I had to do two coats of paint. But after all that, the fun part began!

I'm using a kit by Rustoleum and it comes with an optional glaze which makes the cabinets look awesome! It was fun to play with how much glaze to apply and where to leave brush strokes, etc. And they came out looking sooo good!

Now I'm working on the frame inside the kitchen so I can get the cabinets put back up. My goal is to have them done by Friday. I can't wait to post that picture! Sure, I still have many more cabinets to go, but getting this Section #1 done will feel really fabulous.

Can't wait to show you the finished product! Thanks for watching my progress and cheering me on. =)

Monday, September 19, 2011

My School Monday: Lifeguard!

Do you ever feel like you are drowning when it comes to teaching your children? Whether it's homeschooling per se, or training them up, do you ever feel in over your head, or question whether you've accidentally drifted into a rip tide?

Yeah, that'd be me.

Sometimes I feel like I'm swirling down the drain and I'm not sure whether I should paddle against the current or empty the tub and draw a new bath.

My carefully-chosen curriculum isn't working well for us.

Our Language Arts is frustrating and built upon a system the educators begin in kindergarten which we aren't familiar with. (Mainly, sentence diagramming.) We're both frustrated and there is a lot of red ink on every worksheet. I bought the year's worth of workbooks. Do I swim against the current and push through, or let it (and the money I spent) run down the drain and try something else? I think I'm going to try something else (Progeny Press). This isn't too difficult to do because I didn't spend too much money on CLE. But I feel like I've wasted our time the last 6 weeks.

History. One of the MOST important subjects I want to teach. The Abeka is fine, but for added depth I purchased two TruthQuest guides at $25 a pop. I love, love, loved the idea of them, the approach, the worldview, everything. But it isn't fitting in with our schedule. I haven't used them much at all. I tried, but it just ain't happening. That's $50 I wasted and I'm loathe to admit it.

I also find myself missing the My Father's World curriculum we did last year. I'd felt it moved too slowly but that was a cheap price for all the wonderful things we did together. Daily Bible reading as our main history text, Jewish feasts, memory verses we did together.

But do you know how much I'd have to spend to buy the next volume?  A lot. Especially when adding in the wasted $$ on TruthQuest and CLE. So do I ignore the ache in my heart and press on with the dry and purely independent Abeka alone? This is the biggest burden on me right now.

Math. I failed her with math last year. She did alright in Algebra 1 as we went along, but didn't learn with full understanding. She wasn't ready for Geometry this year and I feel bad. So we ordered Math U See Algebra 1. I didn't pay for this at least. But it still hasn't arrived. So I feel like a slacker, lol.

Bible with SoS. She's doing just "okay" with it. It's NOT as good as the daily Bible reading and studying we did together last year. Even if it is tracked and graded and all "officialish", I don't think it's as heart-penetrating. She still remembers the very first memory verse from last year, but is struggling with her official Bible curriculum this year. Again, another indicator that MFW was a better fit.

But the money! Oh, the money! And the time, the wasted time! I feel like I'd be resetting the clock on 8th grade. We'd be living in an alternate reality where it's still labor day for us when the rest of the country is gearing up for pumpkins and scarecrows!

What would you do? Should I drain the tub?
I kinda think so, but I'm afraid of admitting the waste and afraid of making more mistakes.

It's all kind of poopy, really. I could use some been-there-done-that stories for sure. Here's to seeking wisdom, and making it a great week despite it all!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Special COTT News

Tourney Banner 2

Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles!

It's been almost a year since COTT opened its voting-booth doors and invited everyone in. Over the past twelve months, readers have chosen 25 Clash winners and received 48 free books. And along the way, a family formed. That family consists of the voters, authors, staff, and the 25+ blogs who have banded together in mutual support with COTT.

This is cause for major celebration! So COTT is doing it up to the nines.

Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament of Champions begins next month! Over the course of four weeks, past winners from the previous year will compete in a series of clashes for the ultimate prize: the Laurel Award. The Laurel, COTT's most prestigious honor, is awarded by public vote to a single author among the year's champions.

Voters are expected to turn out in droves to support their favorites and participate in games just for readers. Each week, COTT sponsors—consisting of various authors and staff—will issue fun challenges to readers along with the chance to win gift cards, critique services, a business card design, and more. A dozen sponsors are lined up for the event so far. That's a lot of prizes!

Throughout the month, details and updates on the Tournament of Champions will be shared on the COTT website and featured within the Blog Alliance. To help spread the word, please grab the special Tournament Button (below) to display on your site. Then send a link to your page to: contactcott at gmail dot com to enter the special COTT Shout-About drawing. The drawing will take place during the first week of the Tournament and the winner will receive a Clash of the Titles mug.

Please also consider Tweeting or sharing this article on your Facebook wall.
(it only takes a second--just click the share button.)

Mark your calendars and spread the word. This BYOV (Bring Your Own Vote) party begins on October 10th!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sarah Sundin Takes The Snappy Crown!

The other day my daughter orally lamented a previous conversation. “I always think of my best come-backs too late.” I know how she feels, although I’m probably on the other end of the spectrum—I often wish I hadn’t said X or Y once the conversation is done. At least in writing we can carefully craft our words, which should make it easier, right? Not necessarily. Writing effective, authentic, snappy dialogue is a skill that must be honed. And yet, when done well, it plunges the reader deep into the story and provides vivid characterization.

This last week two authors threw their “chatty-keyboards” into the Clash of the Titles' ring and although both excerpts were phenomenal, Sarah Sundin, author of A Memory Between Us, wowed readers with her printed banter.

Here’s a snippet of her COTT competing excerpt:

Jack made out Ruth’s shapely figure coming down Northgate Street. She couldn’t afford the new olive drab uniforms some of the nurses wore, but she sure looked smart in the dark blue jacket and medium blue skirt.

Jack stepped back around the corner. He unzipped his lightweight leather flight jacket, made sure his shirt collar was open, and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his olive drab trousers. Had to look casual.

He let Ruth pass, then fell in behind her. “‘One misty moisty morning.’”

Ruth looked over her shoulder and smiled.

“‘When cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather. He began to compliment and I began to grin. How do you do? And how do you do? And how do you do again?’”

Amusement crinkled her eyes. “It’s afternoon.”

“Yeah, but it’s misty and moisty. Life in England has taught me what that means.”

“No misty moisty mornings in California?”

“In January, not August.” Jack proceeded down the flagstone sidewalk. “And look, you chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather.”

Gotta love that phrase, “Misty, moisty morning,” an example of great dialogue and fun alliteration!

The story it came from is about a determined soldier on a mission to win a woman’s heart:

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top-priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she also is determined not to give her heart to any man.

As the danger and tension of World War II rise to a fever pitch, Jack and Ruth will need each other more than ever. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?

From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Romance, tough, rugged men, and rich history make this novel a must read!

Want to nibble on a few more COTT winning excerpts and win great prizes in the process? Make sure to join us for the ultimate literary challenge where COTT winners go head to head in our Tournament of Champions on October 10th to November 4th! What better way to launch the Holiday season than with a stash of great books won in our tournament give-away?

*Jennifer Slattery writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Samie Sisters, Afictionado, the Christian Pulse, and is the marketing manager of the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She also co-hosts (with five other authors) the Facebook faith community, Living by Grace, a modern-day “meet at the well” experience where believers around the globe can unite, fellowship, and be refreshed. Visit her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud to find out more about her, her writing, and the ministries she writes for.

And make sure to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to help determine our next literary champion!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Living by Grace…Together, Guest Jessica R Patch

What does living by grace mean to you? For me, it means walking each day knowing I am weak, but He is strong. I get tired, He never does. I stumble, He holds me up. I make mistakes, He’s perfect.
 So many things pour into me every day. Responsibilities of being a wife, mother, employee, a writer, a woman (if you’re a woman you know what I’m saying). I wear many hats. I love each one. I love each responsibility, but they can all wear me out.
I need my thirsty soul, quenched. I need saturated with His love, with the washing of the water of His Word. I can’t be good at any of the things above, if I don’t first fill myself up with Him.
Can anyone relate?
And because I’m a woman, I like to share. Women love to share, don’t they? My husband is amazed at some of the things I’m willing to divulge to my girlfriends. I love it when a bunch of us get together and talk about life and most importantly the foundation of life. Jesus Christ.
It renews me, encourages me, revs me up, and gives me hope. We bond through friendship and faith. We care for each other, pray for each other, laugh together. It’s a wonderful experience, especially when coffee and chocolate are involved!
“…cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
Doesn’t this sense of belonging, renewal, and friendship sound wonderful? Wish you could have it on a daily basis?
You can.
I’m honored to be partnering with some incredible women of faith who want to live by grace, together. We want a sense of community and camaraderie with other women. On September 12th, we’ll be launching a devotional facebook community. Living By Grace. We want to invite you to come by and let your souls be quenched, your minds and hearts challenged. Each day an amazing woman will bring the word through a devotional and feel free to mingle, chat, ask questions, and just have a good time.
We’re building bonds of sisterhood through faith and facebook! Come and join us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dialogue--Snappy Dialogue, That Is

Coming Up at Clash of the Titles, October 10-November 4, 2011
The first annual, Tournament of Champions! 
Over a FOUR week period, SIXTEEN previous COTT champs will face-off in EIGHT different mini-Clashes.
Only ONE will take home The Laurel Award.
With Clashes, games, and prizes galore, you won't want to miss this month-long celebration!

*Guest post by Lisa Lickel

Dialogue lets your characters be heard. It’s their voice; their conversation amongst themselves. It’s how they tell their story. Dialogue is talk. Discussion. Arguments. Jokes. Questions and answers. Foibles. Mystery. Mesmerism. It’s the muscle on the skeleton of the story.

The writer’s ability to conquer natural dialogue comes out of how well we know our characters. The reader’s ability to hear natural-sounding dialogue comes from the depth from which he is drawn into the story.

      Using dialogue in a book helps readers see that characters spend time with each other for a reason, even if they’re stranded on desert islands. Tom Hanks had Wilson in the move Cast Away, after all. Dialogue is more than internal mutterings or their revelations to the reader. It needs to be heard, not just read. The words need to translate immediately to sound in the reader’s inner ear, and thus be natural, no matter the setting.

What can we deduce from these two small pieces of the excerpts in this Clash? Are you in time, in story, in the character’s emotions? Can you cheer for them? Figure out exactly what will happen next, or are you eager to turn the page for more?

“Would you mind if I walked with you?”
      “As long as we’re not together.”
      “All right.” He strode into the street and spread his arms as wide as his grin. “There. We’re not together.”
     “Jack!” she cried…. “Get back up here.” Ruth motioned frantically. “Don’t make me fix you up again.”

“Perhaps you cannot wait for the wedding night?”
      Her brown eyes simmered. “Why you insufferable cad!” She raised her hand to slap him.

He caught it and lifted it to his lips for a kiss, eyeing her with delight.

She studied him then released a sigh. “You tease me, sir.” Snatching her hand from his, she stepped back. “But what would I expect from you?”

In a novel, talk must have a purpose. A conversation shouldn’t be talk for the sake of filling time or space. Readers have only until the last page to spend with people in a book, so writers must not waste time. Dialogue is meant to reveal something useful, important to the story line—passion, motive, or confession.

Why Snappy? Characters must speak true to their nature. While snappy it might not describe the personality, it implies action, tension, perhaps a slip of the tongue or a revelation that might even surprise the character, but certainly should surprise the reader.

Clash of the Titles hopes you are intrigued by these little snippets of story and want to find out more about the books and authors. Stop by and you’ll get that chance! Meet the authors and leave comments to enter the drawing for a free book.

*Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and several inspirational novels to date. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

No School!

Enjoy your corn on the cob, burgers & dogs, and whatever wacky family you're visiting. Watch a parade and have a picnic, or lounge around in your fuzzy bunny slippers all day. But however you do it, take a load off!

See ya tomorrow! =)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fiction Friday: Story Time!

Who's going to help me write this story?

I thought it would be fun to write a Fairy Tale. This might be difficult because we might conclude all the good ones have been written already. But I think you're a talented enough bunch to do it! I'll leave it up all weekend. Will you give it a whirl? Let's go...

Once upon a time, Princess Lilly sat in her castle and gazed across the rare flower gardens of her estate, the fragrant apple orchards, the clear lakes, and the crests of green hills stretching as far as her eye could see, and thought to herself...