Friday, March 27, 2009

Summer, Summer Fruit

Two weeks ago the sign went up. We saw it on the way home from school. Of course I had to stop.

Thirty miles up the road, the city of Santa Maria is known for its strawberries. But Rosa’s are the best. She brings them from her fields in Lompoc and Santa Maria and sells them at her roadside stand in Solvang.

My son swears she grows them with sugar water. The centers are so sweet, so juicy, the berries so large. I buy half a flat at a time, six little green baskets filled to overflowing. The stand is less than two miles from our house, but two baskets are empty before we pull into the driveway.

When I was growing up, one of the grocery stores in Southern California had this overly cheery woman singing this really goofy jingle: "Summer, summer fruits, it wouldn't be summer without 'em!" I hated it as a child because it would get stuck in my head for days. Obviously, it's still there. I haven't tortured my children with it. Yet.

But when I saw the strawberry stand, when my car filled with that heavenly aroma as my children devoured the berries...It’s the first delicious hint of summer. Are you ready?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Room for Books

Many writers start off as avid readers and I am no exception. Enter any room of my house and you will find books everywhere: on shelves (where they are supposed to be!), on the sofa, stacked on the floor, in the linen closet, under the get the idea.

Last night my husband gave me the most wonderful gift.

He has had several days off since he quit his job last week and starts the new one tomorrow. So with his free time, he decided to redo our bedroom. He ripped out the carpet and put in wood floors, painted the walls, and added gorgeous 6-inch floor trim. It looks like a completely different room. It's beautiful. But that's not even the best part.

As I lay in bed I couldn't take my eyes off the most perfect part of my new room. The built-in bookshelf next to my night stand. Now instead of knocking over stacks as I climb into bed, I can stare at my shelves and go to sleep thinking of all the wonderful stories arranged so neatly in this corner.

Of course, it's almost full already. I won't have room for many more books. *sigh* And you realize that not having space is not enough reason for me to not buy more.

But that's okay. It's enough to enjoy my beautiful shelves crafted with love by my wonderful husband.

What shall I read tonight?

Monday, March 23, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Wow, you guys...

Your stories of gifts received were wonderful! Corey, I LOVE the song your husband had written for your wedding day. How sweet is that! Michelle, it's so good to hear that people can be so kind to one another. I'm thrilled that someone would do that for you. Beth, I can only imagine the joy of talking to a son who is no longer at home. And T.Annne, a trip to Disneyland is the stuff memories are made of.

So, here's the deal. I couldn't pick just one winner. I think you've all won with the wonderful gifts you've received, but I'm going to add to it.

We put everyone's comments into a basket and pulled not one, but FOUR names. The first two out were Vivian and Kelly. They each win a bracelet. The next two out were Kelly H-Y and Suzanne. They both win books. Congratulations! If you will email me at solvang sherrie at gmail dot com, I will get those prizes out to you.

And for the rest of you, here's another chance to win something. I know you all like to read, and Lenore is giving away 11 books to one lucky reader. Check it out...

Author Spotlight on: Kimberley Troutte

Kimberley and I have lived in the same neighborhood for almost six years. But it wasn’t until we both showed up for a Writers Day event in Thousand Oaks last year that I realized we shared a common bond.

Kim’s first book, a nonfiction early development book called Kid’s Play, was published in 2001 under the name Kimberley T. Hernandez. She writes MG fiction under the name K.T. Hernandez, although she’s still pre-published in that arena. Her first romance novel came out last Tuesday as an e-book under the name Kimberley Troutte.

Confused? Her readers aren’t. After less than a week in circulation at the web site, Soul Stealer has already climbed to #6. But it wasn’t just an overnight success for this hard-working writer.

How long did it take from when you started on this story until you found out it was going to be published?
Soul Stealer started out as a short story for a contest. We were given a one-liner prompt to start a 1,200 words short-story. No, I didn't win the contest, but the idea stuck in my head and grew over time. At the start of last year I went back to the idea. In about four months Soul Stealer was "done". [I need to interject here that I never really feel like I'm done. Eventually, I just suck it up, pry the manuscript from my fingers, and turn the thing in.]

In April, 2008 I submitted Soul Stealer to Samhain Publishing hoping it would be selected as one of three or four stories in an Anthology. It didn't happen, but the editor wrote to me and said she had liked it well enough to pass along to another editor. In July, 2008, Deborah Nemeth offered me a contract for a stand-alone book. On March 17th, 2009 Soul Stealer hit the cyber-streets and as an e-book.

How have you changed the story over that time?
Can I say everything changed? I had to grow the story, add depth and emotion to the characters, and better define their motivation and conflict. Plus I introduced many, shall we say, cameo characters. What didn't change was the fun factor. I had fun writing it from start to The End.

Do you have a writing schedule? How often do you write?
I write every day. Not because I have to, but because I love to write. It's my little bit of dark chocolate kind of pleasure. There's nothing like the feeling of characters coming to life. As to when I write, it's all over the clock. I have kids and another job, so I end up squeezing writing in when I can. I edit while sweating on the elliptical machine at the YMCA.

What was the writing prompt that became Soul Stealer?
The writing prompt was to say this nicely...horrific. I don't remember the exact sentence we had to use but the gist was a man sees a beautiful woman and kills her. Ewww. Love stories with heart-swelling happy endings are more my thing. How could I write something like that? But the winners of the contest received scholarships to the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference and I REALLY wanted to go. What to do? Suddenly I had it. What if the man was Death and the woman he comes to kill is the only woman he can't live without? Ah-ha. I had the germ of an idea for Soul Stealer. (Click here to read the first chapter of Soul Stealer.)

Writing romance is quite different stylistically from writing middle grade novels. How did you do you manage to write such different genres?
I write middle grade novels because I want my two young boys to read mom's stuff. They'd be bored silly with the lovey-dovey stories. I am passionate about giving kids good stories to inspire them and teach them to love reading.

Do you outline or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
I'm an in-betweener. The idea for the story begins first. I mull it over while trying on characters, settings, plot twists. Then, somewhat like an artist with a pencil, I sketch out the characters--their traits, flaws, strengths and how I think they will arc. Next I sketch the scenes I absolutely have to have in the story. I usually know how the story begins, the climax and the ending before I start writing. Somewhere around this point my creative side is so antsy to write that I have to start, or I'll explode. I pound out the story bit by bit until I have a rough draft that only a mother could love. The real work begins in the editing zone. On the elliptical machine.

You've been a finalist in several contests. Do you feel that helped you in any way with getting published?
I didn't sell any books from a contest. And truly, I don't know anyone who has. But contests can be helpful. They force you to refine your work, and get you thinking in the submit mode. There's nothing quite like knowing someone, anyone, is reading your words. Some of the contests offer feedback too. Word of caution here, I've been smacked with less than desirable feedback from contests. You have to take that stuff with a grain of salt. In one contest I scored a 98 from one judge and a 54 from another (all out of 100). How is that possible? I write stories that are a little out of the norm and cross into other genres. I think the judges didn't quite know what to do with me. :)

Samhain has purchased another one of your romance novels. When does that come out?
Every ounce of free time is going into editing Catch Me in Castile. It comes out in August as an e-book and then as a paperback 9 months later.

Congratulations, Kim! I'm so glad that your novella is doing well and I can't wait for the day that we're holding our MG novels together. Happy editing :^)

You can find out more about Kim and her books at her website:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Giving Again

A few months ago I wrote about the 29 Days of Giving project. Remember the bracelet the checker gave me at the grocery store?

Well I walked into the drugstore a few days ago to pick up my prescription and they had a basket on the counter full of these bracelets. Of course I had to buy one. If I had more cash in my pocket I would have bought more.

It started me thinking. Of course I slacked off once the 29 days were over. But I’m up for the challenge again. And I’m starting with you. Tell me about the best gift you ever received. On Wednesday, I will pick a winner. The prize will be one of these beautiful bracelets created to benefit children orphaned by AIDS.

Why Wednesday? Because March 25th will be exactly 29 days before I leave for Colorado and the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I plan to give something away every day until I go. Yay!

You have until 8am Pacific time on Wednesday to submit your answers. Let the contest begin!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Leprechaun Luck

Every March 16 my children set out a trap before they go to bed. They spend at least a week discussing and creating their trap. They argue over the best way to trick a leprechaun into visiting, and how to capture him once he's here.

This year Jasmine decided to chew up a bunch of gum and leave it inside the box, then cover everything with toothpaste to make those little green feet stick. She left gold to entice the leprechauns and camped out in her tent near the front door so they couldn't get by her.

But those little men are so sneaky! We found green apple juice in the fridge, green water from the faucet and the dog has a shamrock tattooed on his head. Outside by the trap we found a trail of gold glitter, a scattering of shamrocks, gold and chocolate coins, two little green hats and some footprints. But no leprechauns. They escaped again.

Or did they?

My daughter says that leprechauns can't be seen in the daylight. So she figures these three got stuck in her trap and didn't escape before the sun rose. Now they are just a paper shadow of themselves.

Hmmm...I think I feel a story coming on...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Author Spotlight on: Jessica Burkhart

So many people I know have books coming out in the near future, and I'm thrilled for all of them. Some are first-time authors, others are more established, all of them are wonderful. I'm always eager to learn how people got their breaks, so I'll be sharing some of their stories with you in the coming months.

First up is 22-year old tween author Jessica Burkhart. A NANO winner, blogger extrodinaire, and self-proclaimed PR Ninja :-) Jessica has been on a fast track in the publishing world. Her first book, Take the Reins, came out in January, introducing readers to Canterwood Crest. Book two in the series, Chasing Blue, released this week. I met Jessica over at Galley Cat and I've been so impressed with her work ethic, her positive spirit and of course, her writing.

You started writing for magazines at a young age. How old were you the first time you saw your name in print?
I was fourteen when I had my first piece published in "Teen Ink." The article was about how moving around a lot as a kid had impacted me. I had just gone through a recent move when I wrote the piece, so it meant something to me.

You participated in NaNoWriMo in 2006. Did you “win”? Is that when you wrote Take the Reins?
I did win! I hit the 50,000 word mark for the month and that was when I wrote Take the Reins.

You are very close in age to the characters in your books. How much of you is in them?
Probably a little too much. :) Sasha has a lot of me in her and we like a lot of the same things. I might also share a few qualities with my mean girls. Might. *wink*

How long did it take from when you started on this story until you found out it was going to be published?
Well, I wrote Take the Reins in November 2006, got my agent in January 2007 and the book sold in May 2007. It came out in January 2009.

That's amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that you have six books coming out this year! You must be doing a LOT of writing. How many books are actually completed? Do you have a writing schedule?
I’m finishing the last round of revisions on book four (Triple Fault). I’m starting the fifth book, Best Enemies, next week. When I’m in crazy drafting stage, I write from eight to ten hours a day, usually seven days a week. Once I get going on a draft, it’s hard for me to stop. I feel a lot less anxious when I have a draft down, no matter how bad it is.

Do you outline or do you just sit down and write?
I do a short outline first that’s about five to six pages. Then, I write a chapter by chapter outline that can run up to 30 pages. I need that detailed outline to keep me on track since I’m on such a tight schedule.

Your books are about girls at an elite boarding school, but you homeschooled for high school. Do you wish you could have gone to a school like Canterwood Crest? Why did you homeschool and what was the best part of that experience for you?
I would have loved to attend a school like Canterwood! Boarding school always sounded like fun—especially one with horses.

I started homeschooling after I had a spinal fusion when I was thirteen. I intended only to homeschool until I was well enough to return to school. But I loved being in charge of my own schedule and deciding what I studied. Homeschooling also gave me the freedom to pursue my writing more than if I’d been going to traditional school.

You graduated from Florida State University around the same time that you signed your contract with Simon and Schuster. How did you manage to have a contract less than a year after you wrote your first novel?
A lot of luck. It’s true—it was a right idea at the right time type of thing. My agent had been seeking a horse novel, she stumbled on my blog and asked to read my manuscript. She signed me, helped me revise the manuscript and she knew exactly whom to target when she submitted it. (You can see some of her archived blogs here.)

The books must be doing well because Simon and Schuster extended your contract from the initial four to eight books. How exciting is that as a debut author?
It’s thrilling to know that I’ll be able to stay with my characters a little longer. I’ve got the best team of people behind me—editor, agent, design, publicity, marketing—and I love that they’re excited about Canterwood Crest too.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned as a first time author?
The fan reactions have shocked me—in a good way! I went to my first school visit and got to sign hands, arms, t-shirts and books. I was surprised at how excited the kids were to meet me. I’d been so nervous before the visit and it vanished when I started talking to the kids.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Need by Carrie Jones and I’m about to start The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jessica. Now get back to work!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reader Recommendations

Every Monday I help in the classrooms at Ballard School where my children are in 1st and 4th grade. Cute school, huh?

I love when I get to read with the 4th graders. They bring out a book and read aloud to me, filling me in with what's going on and sometimes asking what a word means. It's always fun to see what interests them, especially when I know some of the authors. Last week I probably scared Sadie with my enthusiasm when I saw she was reading Sheep by Val Hobbs.

Me: Omigosh, Sadie, I'll be at Val's house tomorrow night! I'm taking a writing class from her!

Sadie, backing up a little: Wow, you know her? That's cool...

Sadie's sister gave her Sheep, which brings me to my point. Kids don't look at best seller lists or choose a book because it won an award. Some will pick up books with interesting covers and good blurbs on the back. But mostly they choose books that they see their friends (or sisters) reading or hear about from the school librarian. And once they like an author, they'll read anything by that person. (I found out that Sadie's sisters and Mom own at least six of Val's books!)

So when I saw Jen Robinson's post about selecting reading material, I thought I'd go to some kids for recommendations. I've got two voracious readers living with me and here are their impromptu book lists:

Drew's 4th Grade Recommendations
Harry Potter
My mom and I have read all these books together and I reread them by myself too.

The Dark Lord
I'll read any Star Wars book, but this is my favorite.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
I have all four books. They make me laugh out loud (and my mom, too).

Blood on the River
I just finished this for book club at school. It's a historical novel about John Smith and the James Town settlers.

Drew is just starting the Percy Jackson series (one of MY personal favorites). I'm guessing it will become a favorite for him, too.

Jasmine's 1st Grade Recommendations
The Wednesday Surprise

She loves this one because the kids surprise their daddy.

Nate the Great
She's reading this book for Accelerated Reader.

The Magic Treehouse Series
I used to read these to her but now she reads them on her own.

Bark, George
This picture book still makes her laugh out loud every time she reads it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I'm so excited I can barely contain myself!

And it's not a big deal really in the whole scheme of things, but still, it was really exciting to hear...

I got a call this afternoon from a fabulous woman named Dawn (my new BFF). She said she was calling from the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference to let me know that my MG manuscript, Secret of Undine, won 3rd Place in this year's Writing Contest.


I couldn't even process half of what she said to me. She told me there is a small prize. She asked if I plan to attend the conference in April. I've spent so much time trying not to think about it that I was at a loss for words!

I mailed the manuscript back in October, then tried to forget about it. Then in November I sent the same manuscript to an editor in New York who had asked to see it after I queried her. Again I tried to forget about it.

And I can't think of anything else!! They like me! They really like me!!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Does She Live in a Mansion?

I was talking to a friend yesterday, a non-writing friend. We were talking about my novels and I mentioned to her that a friend of mine had signed a contract for her first novel last year.

"So does she live in a mansion now?"

I'm pretty sure my mouth fell open. Fortunately, we were on the phone so she couldn't see my expression.

"Um, no. She lives about a block away from me."

I bit my tongue to keep from saying more. I know how much my friend's advance was and I can guarantee it wouldn't cover the property tax, let alone buy a whole new house! And I know other writers who have published multiple books and still live pretty much the same lifestyle that they had before.

So where does this misconception come from? Very few people get the big advances. Fewer still reach the level of J.K. Rowling (who is reportedly worth more than the queen of England).

Luckily, I'm not in it for the money. I mean, sure, I'd LOVE to make a ton of money from my books. But I write because I love to write. And I want to someday hold a book in my hands that has my name on it. And hide behind the stacks and watch someone actually pay to own one of my books.

Mansions are for famous athletes, actors and reality stars. I don't want to have to clean that much. I'd rather move into Barnes & Noble. Right under the shelf that has my books :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Behind the Story

One of the things that helped me get past this block was digging into the back story. But not for my main character.

I know my main character, but I didn’t know his parents. In every other MG that I’ve written, the parents played so small a role I didn’t need to know much about them. In this one, I’m dealing with events that take place when the MC is really young, so he is affected by choices his parents make. In order for those choices to make sense, I had to get to know them. Most of the information will never show up in the novel, but knowing their back story has sparked the novel in ways I didn’t think possible. Without their story to motivate him, my MC was floating uselessly and making no sense. And believe me, having everything make sense has been exhilarating beyond belief!!

I realize I’m not the first person to discover the importance of back story. But I am curious to know how much it factors in to the planning for other people. How much back story do you develop on your minor characters?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...