Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last post of 2011

With just mere hours left in 2011, I'm overwhelmed with all the emotions I have going on. Tomorrow, I begin my journey with Julie Hedlund's challenge. Another challenge, you ask? Yep! This time, it won't be lasting a mere 30 days, oh no, no. It's a year-long challenge called 12x12 in 2012.

That's right, folks! 12 PB manny's in 12 months. And I mean, that starts TOMORROW! I am nervous, I won't lie. It is a lot more involved than I had realized. One year from right now, I have no clue where I will be. But I DO know that I will have at least A manuscript written. Yes, the goal is 12. But even if I just write one, at least I wrote it.

I have a lot of ideas floating around. It'll be interesting to see them come to life.

Whew! Two blog posts in ONE day? Ha! I'm just getting started. This year is our year, dear friends. May we embrace each other, and learn from one another.

The Old Tire Swingers... Ready... GO!

I am a person who has a very (and I mean, VERY) eclectic taste in music. I'm not sure there isn't at least one song in every genre that I don't like. Growing up, my parents really pushed Christian music. We listened to Michael W. Smith, Kirk Franklin, Jars of Clay, DC Talk, and especially, Keith Green. However, on the occasional "Saturday Chore Day", my father would bust out some classic hits from Sir Elton John, Boston, Kansas, Queen, and The Eagles. And then... Came country music.

We listened to just about every single country song ever played in the 80s and 90s (back before it was cool). It wasn't abnormal to hear Garth Brooks, The Judds, Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, George Straight, Alabama, etc. blasting from the Millar family's car. And, when we moved to central Cali? Forget it! I think that's ALL we listened to! Surrounded by agriculture, where it was socially acceptable to run around in cowboy boots, we fit in! I, however, still told my school friends that ONLY my parents listened to that "junk" (as I hid my "Classic Country" cassette tapes under my bed).

As I've grown older, I absolutely fell in love with the Grunge movement. Ahh... THAT is the stuff my kids will BEG me to turn off when they're in their teens. But, I enjoyed everything. I could sing, but playing an instrument? Nah... That business was for my multi-talented, little brother. And, man. He was gooood.

So, here we are, years later, and my brother has created quite the name for himself. He has been involved in the creation of a lot of music, but none more important than his own. He headed up (what I believed was) an extremely important band, the Martyrs. They were Punk Rockers, just like in the good ol' days, and many locals LOVED them. But, as it sometimes happens, maturity (immaturity?) takes its toll on a young band, and the Martyrs soon ran thier course. BUT, I am proud to say, that he has joined up with three other INCREDIBLY talented men, and they are... The Old Tire Swingers.

They are a genre of music I never imagined my brother being involved in. Yes, he has his separate solo career going on ( where he showcases his inner early Bob Dylan mastery. The Old Tire Swingers (OTS) are  an old time string/bluegrass band. Paul Chesterton is the leader of this band, and has an incredible story behind his talent and his idea for this mash up of old-timey music with current relativity. He brings power into his own original music, and the other three closely follow suit.
OTS consists of: Paul Chesterton (volcals/banjo), Nick Kennedy (volcals/guitar), Frick Dau (upright bass), and Nathanael Felon -my brother- (vocals/mandolin).

They describe themselves as influenced by, "The Appalachian string bands as well as their own Central California country roots, they play a style that's somewhere between old time, bluegrass, and country." They have brought people attending their shows to their feet! It's all lively, fun, and leaves you feeling like you've had a seriously good time.

Just yesterday, they were showcased by our local FOX morning news... 

They are really bringing back something that I feel has been lost over all the years of computerized, easy, DIY junk that is hitting the airwaves. They will be touring England for the upcoming month of January, and then will head back here to the States to tour. If you can, please do yourself a favor and go see them. Show some support for real, raw talent. These guys deserve it!

Paul, Nick, Frick, and Nathanael... Good luck on your adventures this year! May OTS show the world how to have a fantastic, old fashioned, foot stomping, good time.

Everyone else, please visit them here-
and enjoy thir album here-
 or on iTunes!!



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oh, hello there, 2012... I sure didn't see you coming.


Anyone else wondering where 2011 went? I am. I've been looking for it everywhere! It's definitely not in that junk drawer that's in the kitchen (and, let's face it, in the laundry room, my hubby's nightstand, and garage). It's not in our truck. It's not on my desk that's forever engulfed with papers, pens, and books.

Where is it?!?!

Well, at least we know that there are neat things ahead. I will be writing... And writing... And writing! (Oh, and since the one year count down to my high school reunion will start over the summer, I will also be running... And running... And running!)

Our boys will be in T-Ball and Soccer, and I will inevitably become one of "those" moms. It's a sad truth, BUT, I can't wait. Then our oldest will start Kindergarten. Uh... Er... *sniffles* Nope! Changing the subject. NOW!
My sweet brother will be gone on a European tour with his band for a little while, and then will return to tour the states. Being a proud sister comes with bittersweet undertones, but that's nothing I am not used to. I will simply rely on good ol' technology to keep us in contact. If anyone wants to listen to some fantastic Bluegrass music, check them out!

I have a few things I am excited about, career-wise. Sadly, I can't discuss anything yet! BUT, please know that the comments I received on my last post were saved, printed, and tacked on to my wall. Support is so necessary to we humans, no? Thank you, all!

Happy New Year!! May 2012 be everything you deserve, and provide you with the challenges you were made to face. God bless you!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where to go? Professionally, that is.

Writing... Writing, and writing, and writing... That seems to be what's in my heart. It's all I can think about, it's all I want to do in my spare time. I don't want to read on how to write. I don't want to worry about the word count or if it sounds like someone else's story.

There's only a few hundred problems with all of that.

I am continuously hearing that in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Well, kudos to me, because I am an excellent reader! However, that "spare time" I referred to earlier? Yeah... That is treasured, rare, and cannot be split into a few areas. I'M A MOTHER! And not like a mother who has kids in school for eight hours a day. No, no, my kids are almost 5 and 3. I can barely pee by myself! So, I'd rather use that delicate, sweet, beautiful hour that they take their naps, on writing (trust me, the laundry and dishes pile up around here so often, I think my husband is going to fire me!).

But, aside from THAT worry, I believe the next step for me to take is to figure out my target audience. Who the heck am I writing for?? I love picture books. The ideas come easy to me, but sometimes I feel like I can't compare. Other writers that I know? Picture Books just flow out of them. They're smooth, elegant, and wonderful. My attempts? Well, to be honest, they just don't... Fit.

I do not take offense! But it is frustrating at times because my brain says that the PB world is where I belong. It's logical, relevant, and fun! But my heart seems to write differently. I know that it simply comes down to one thing...


I am terrified of writing a chapter book or novel. Why? Well, getting rejected after you've put time and effort into less than 800 words is painful enough. I absolutely cannot imagine how gut wrenching the rejection of a 10,000+ word manuscript would feel. Plus, that seems like a lot of time to invest and we've already discussed how little of that I have.

Sooooo... Here's the part where my writer (and even non-writer) friends tell me that I'm a nerd. BUT keep in mind, I am aware of this. I just need clarification on where I'm supposed to go! Is it possible for someone to go ahead and make that decision for me?

The kids are asleep now. Get back to me when you've decided what I should do with my professional life. I'd really rather spend my time writing... Something.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The gift of friendship? Yep. It's real.

It has come to my attention that I have been given a gift this year, but it was given to me early...
Like, 12 years ago, early.

But before I get to that, let me explain something about myself that not many of my new found friends know.

I was born into a Christian family- my father was a Pastor, and my mother was a devoted Pastor's wife. Through 25 years of drama (that's putting it mildly), pain (understatement of the millennium), and emotional abuse, my parents divorced the same year I got married. Everything went topsy turvy, but I was grateful to have my in-laws to hold on to. However, like I posted a few days ago, my in-laws have gone the way of the psychotic buffalo. What were we to do? We felt abandoned. We had no family to surround ourselves with.

Now, back to 12 years ago.

I met a girl named Erica, exactly 12 years ago this month. We were both signed up to play softball, and almost instantly, we became friends. Later on that year, she got herself a boyfriend whom I fell in total platonic, brother/sister love with. His name was Joseph, and he was something special.

Over the years, Erica and I played on school softball teams together, and just about every summer league out there. We went through everything. She was the one person I walked away from High School with, still hand in hand.

Erica was in my wedding in 2005.

When Erica married Joseph in 2008, I was there (15 weeks pregnant and all), standing witness to one of the most emotional ceremonies God has ever touched by hand.

This past January, I woke up in the middle of the night because I knew something that Erica didn't know. She was pregnant. I'm not sure how I knew, but on September 13, 2011, Josiah was born, and I wept for two days.

My whole point to this super long, probably annoyingly boring story? Well, in the midst of not having family, God gave us a gift: Erica and Joseph. I have always considered them family, but I never realized how soothing it was to have them in our life. They have blessed us with so many things. They have never given up on us, even when we felt there was no hope. Their unconditional support is something Rick and I have never understood. We look up to them. As a couple, they honor one another, respect each other, and treasure the time they spend together. We strive to be like them.

So, here's my thought for anyone who is struggling this Christmas season with loneliness or family abandonment issues... Look to the friends you have. Sometimes they are the gifts you've been given to fill the holes left behind by your blood-relatives.

Joe, Erica, and Josiah... Merry Christmas, my friends. I am so grateful, proud, blessed, and honored to have you in our lives. I pray that everyone has real friends like you, and that we may enrich your lives the way you have ours. And though I'll never admit to writing this in person, know that I mean every word of it.

Here's to50 more Christmases together...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Actually PROUD of this year

Here we are, just about two weeks until Christmas and three from the last day of 2011.

(My inner-most dying need is to scream WHAAAAT??!!!)

I am filled with excitement. Yes, Santa is coming and while that is thrilling, that's not totally what I am excited about. And maybe I shouldn't use the word "excited"; I should be saying, "So-totally-proud-and-happy". That's a word, right?

This year, I was 100% positive that life was going to be a drag. We had a terribly difficult start to the year, and we lost a lot of family (not literally, but we no longer are on speaking terms with most of my husband's side of the family). I was pretty positive that 2011 would be filled with back and forth bickering and consistent fighting. I wasn't sure our kids would emotionally survive.

But a funny thing happened:

We made it.

And of course all the glory goes to God. We definitely DID have some rough patches this year, but I feel like in the last few months the four of us have really held fast to one another. Now, we are approaching THE biggest holiday for large family gatherings. I am proud to say that it'll just be us. My father, his girlfriend, and my brother will be coming over later in the evening for a super casual (maybe we'll all be in our jammies?) dinner. But in the grand scheme of things, there won't be anything grand about it. That seems like a perfect ending for this crazy year.

Now, besides being proud of that accomplishment, here's why I'm proud of MYSELF (the writer):

  • I graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature.
  • I got a Facebook page that allowed me to connect with TONS of different writers who have been or currently are in my same position.
  • I reached out to my SCBWI regional heads to ask for help finding writers in my area, which lead me to the most incredible critique group- Four women whom I can now call my friends.
  • I started my own blog (yay!)
  • I joined PiBoIdMo in November and learned the ins and outs of writing for today's kiddos, as well as met LOTS of people from around the industry.
  • I entered a legit contest through MeeGenius.
  • I decided to join 12x12 (writing a PB manuscript each month in 2012)- Not an easy decision, given the fact that it's a tough challenge for this momma of two young boys/wife of a LEO.

All of that, and I'M STILL ALIVE! Not to mention, I STILL WANT TO WRITE!

Yep. I'm proud of myself. Is that narcissistic? Maybe so, I guess. But, still, I'm not the kind of girl that had it easy her whole life. So all of these things I've accomplished this year? Kind of a BIG deal. And that's only the stuff I'm willing to discuss!

I know 2012 is still three weeks away and we have a lot to look forward to in those weeks ahead, but I wanted to remember that even though a year can start out crappily-dappily (Yep- I said it!), it can still produce some things to be proud of.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Se la Vie, PiBoIdMo 2011

Well, here we are. It's December. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

However, now that November is over, my "ideas" have to really blossom into some amazing stories. That's right, kids. PiBoIdMo is over. I'm actually really sad about it! I enjoyed challenging myself, reading all the inspirational posts from just about everywhere imaginable, and (I think most of all) the comradery I found with all the other picture book writers out there!

It's true, I have not yet been published. I refuse to call myself  an author because I haven't written anything that anyone other than my husband, father, and critique group has read! So, essentially, getting in touch with hundreds of others just like me, gave me the complete motivation I needed.

I want to give a quick thank-you speech to the amazing Tara Lazar. If not for your inspiration, wittiness, comical relief, and downright talent, I am almost positive I would have given up on the hopes of actually publishing anything. So, Tara, THANK YOU!!!

Anyone want to join next year? I encourage you to do so! Email me, or click on the PiBoIdMo Winner's Badge I have up there on the left hand corner of this page. You won't be disappointed!
I am proud of myself, and of ALL the PiBoIdMo-ers in 2011. See you next year!!!