Friday, February 25, 2011

Hook Me: What to Include in Your First Chapter

I'm so excited!! I have a new ebook available. Hook Me: What to Include in Your First Chapter.

It's for aspirirng writers who wonder what to include in a first chapter. I put this information together after reading and studying numerous first chapters. I hope it's helpful.

If you're interested in purchasing, you can go to Smashwords and download it. For a limited time, I'm offering a 50% off coupon which makes the price a mere $.99. A great deal if you ask me :).

Here's the coupon code: BX87U


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Signings and Other Book News

I'm pleased to announce that I'll have two book signings for The Upside of Down at Pioneer Book, 858 S. State, Orem, UT on Friday, March 18th, 4:00-6:00 pm and again on Saturday, March 19th, 12:00-2:00 pm. I'd love to have you stop by and say hello. Pioneer Book has been very accommodating and I really appreciate the opportunity to do a book signing.

I recently discovered that my book is in the spring Seagull Book catalog. Yay! I'm so excited to see it in this catalog.

I've also been very pleased with reviews by Tristi Pinkston and Sheila Staley.

My book has also received some great reviews over at Goodreads.

Jennie Hansen reviewed my book here.

I'm very grateful for these wonderful reviews and for all of the support for this book. It means a lot to me. Thank you to all of you who have read it or are planning to read it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pinewood Derby 1st Place

This is my Cub Scout. He worked hard to earn his Bear.

He won first place for the entire Pinewood Derby. His car is super cool and he was very happy--all that work paid off.

Watching the Pinewood Derby.

Being silly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Boy

We had a lot of fun celebrating my youngest son's birthday. Don't you love this smile?

Who needs cake when you have whipped cream?

I love this photo.

Typical silly faces at our house.

Birthday boy and his big sister.

Everyone gets a crown on their birthday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

He Will Read

I am beside myself with excitement. Last night we put in a DVD for my youngest son to watch. It's from the "My Baby Can Read" reading system. He's watched this one a few times but not very consistently. My husband and I were watching it with him and the word "dog" flashed up on the screen. My son looked at it and then made the sign for dog. No one said the word, there was not a picture of a dog, only the word and he READ it. Yep, he did. A few minutes later, "cat" came up on the TV screen and he made the sign for cat. Again, he READ the word. He had no hints, he had no other clues except for the actual word.

What a huge accomplishment and proof that he can read. Wow! I'm thrilled.

I've taught my kids to read. I don't send them to kindergarten and spend that year with them teaching them through a phonics program. We also learn math and other skills, but reading is our main emphasis. A reader can learn anything because reading opens up the world. My first grader has now read 650 books by herself. We recently had a read-a-thon at the elementary school and in two weeks she read over 800 minutes. Most of my kids go into school reading above grade level. I teach them myself because I never wanted any of them to fall through the cracks and end up not reading.

Since I've taught my other kids to read, I plan to teach my youngest son to read, but I was concerned he might not be able to read. I know that many kids with Down syndrome read, but some don't and I wasn't sure what to expect. I tend to have high expectations for my kids and I just wasn't sure what I could expect with him. Now I know. He will read. He will be able to immerse himself in the world of books and I am so excited for him to do that.

I bought a book about teaching children with Down syndrome to read in hopes that I'd be able to teach my son. And now I know. He will read! Yay!!!!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Barbie and The Feminist Movement

My daughter is participating in National History Day at her middle school. This year's theme is: Debate and Diplomacy: Successes, Failures, and Consequences. The kids compete at the middle school and if they win they go on to a regional competition at the local college. If they win at that level, they then go to Denver  to compete on the state level. If they win state, they go on to compete nationally in Washington D.C. My kids have made it to the state level, but never to the national level.

My daughter chose to debate the effects Barbie has had on our society. Feminists claim that Barbie has had a negative influence on young girls and their self-esteem, so my daughter wanted to research it.

As we've talked about it, I have to say that I think it's completely ridiculous to blame self-esteem issues on a doll. Umm, it's a doll. How can a doll have adverse effects on anyone? It's an inanimate object. I played with Barbies all the time. I even had one fashioned after Miss America that I thought was beautiful. I had all sorts of Barbies and I loved playing with them. I never wanted to be Barbie nor did I ever want to look like her because, well, she was a doll, and I'm a real person. I could easily differentiate between real and make-believe. I'd have to say that if a doll undermines your self-esteem, you have some serious issues brewing.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when it comes to self-esteem, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

My daughter's teacher told her to research the feminist movement and see how it related to the Barbie controversy. My daughter asked me about the feminist movement and I was happy to give her my opinion. The feminist movement has been responsible for the degradation of women and is directly responsible for the murders of millions of innocent babies under the guise of women's rights.

Personally, I do not want to be the same as men. The moment women set out to become like men is the moment our society began to degrade. There was a time when men respected women. They opened doors, pulled out chairs, carried heavy packages, spoke in milder tones, protected the fairer sex, and held women in high regard. Now, that's all changed. Men don't respect women at all. Chivalry is mostly dead. Of course, there are those who are still taught to be chivalrous and to respect women, but they are few and far between. I think domestic violence is directly related to the loss of respect men have for women which is a direct result of the feminist movement.

The feminists like to scream and yell for equality and what they miss is that we already are equal, but equal does not mean the same. My daughter's teacher claims the feminist movement gave women choices. What choices? The choice to seek a career instead of motherhood? Will all that money and prestige keep those women company when they're old and gray? Will the absence of a family really bring happiness? Of course, there's the choice to sleep around with whomever happens to be available, a choice that was once unacceptable. And there's the worst choice of all, killing a baby simply because it's inconvenient. The feminist movement has taught women to not only be selfish but also irresponsible.

The women's movement has done nothing to improve the lot of women and I'm ashamed of all those women who have tried to make me the same as a man. I'm proud to be a woman. I love being a woman. I love being a wife. I love being a mother. I resent the implication from feminists that somehow I'm not a real woman because I don't have some high-powered career and have chosen to stay home and do the most important job in the world: raising my children. My only regret is that I couldn't have 10 more kids.

And what does Barbie have to do with all of this? The feminists claim that Barbie has skewed the expectations of little girls. That girls who play with Barbies will grow up with a distorted sense of reality. Really? I say to the feminists look in the mirror for a distortion of reality.

The best part of the whole thing is that when I asked my daughter where she went for her research on feminism she replied, "I went to because I figured that was the best place to find the truth about women." Yes!! I love that. She even wants to include a quote from The Proclamation about women's true roles. Color me a very proud mama.

Whether my daughter wins or not at school, she's already a winner in my book!

UPDATE: She won third place out of 30 entries and will be competing in the regionals.Yay!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dearly Departed by Tristi Pinkston

Ida Mae Babbit has done her community service and is a reformed woman - no more law-breaking for her.

But when Arlette's granddaughter Eden discovers a mystery in a fancy nursing home, Ida Mae - with the perfect excuse of a broken wrist and a broken ankle - checks herself into the place. After all, it is for the greater good.

Soon she's buzzing around in her motorized wheelchair, questioning the residents and swiping files from the office. She's bound and determined to get to the bottom of this case.

But can she solve the mystery before she becomes the next victim?

They've done it again. Tristi Pinkston because she's once again written a humorous, entertaining, and fun read. And, Ida Mae because she's helped solve another mystery.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on old-lady-speak and elderly knowledge since I grew up with my grandparents. I heard about all sorts of things that happen as you age and can attest to the fight for independence. Neither of my grandparents wanted to depend on anyone, even when they desperately needed to. I found the details in Ida Mae's characterization to be right on the money. Ida Mae is fiercely independent and even though her friends try to "help" her, she resists. But, of course, she can't resist a mystery. And you won't be able to resist reading this story.

I loved the unexpected romance. I used to think romance and all that was confined to the young (the older I get the more I realize I was wrong) but it's sweet to see it happen to older people, even if one of them isn't quite sure how to wear his hair. (You'll have to read the book to understand that reference).

Pinkston has created such realistic characters that I feel like I could visit with any of them because they feel like trusted friends. I think that's the magic with this book and with the series. The characters feel like people you might know in your neighborhood.

Dearly Departed in the second in the Secret Sisters Mysteries. I'm looking forward to the next one to see what Ida Mae and her gang will be up to next. And to see who Eden chooses.

You can learn more about Tristi Pinkston at her website and her blog. You can purchase Dearly Departed at Amazon.

Thanks, Tristi, for a fun and entertaining book!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Chivalry Dead?

We had a lesson on manners the other night and talked about what it means to have manners. I believe today that too many parents do not teach their kids even the simplest of manners like saying "please" and "thank you." And that's a shame.

Some years ago, I met with my daughter's middle school teachers for her end-of-the-school-year presentation. They remarked about how refreshing it was to have a student who said "please" and "thank you" and was polite. They said it wasn't often in their classrooms that someone was courteous and they appreciated that about my daughter. It made me feel good, but it also made me feel bad that my daughter's politeness stood out so. Why was it such a big deal that she was polite?

Unfortunately, I've seen the answer far too often. Kids don't say "thank you" when I give them a ride or go out of my way to help them. People aren't generally courteous or polite. People don't send out thank-you cards--well, except for my sister-in-law who sends out thank-you cards for thank-you cards and is the most polite and gracious person I know.  My grandma insisted I write thank-you cards--a practice that was common in her day, so I still try to do that even when people tell me it isn't necessary.

As my kids have grown up, I've insisted that they say "thank you" and "please" even refusing to give them something or extend help until they asked politely. My youngest is learning to sign "please" and "thank you."

During our manners lesson we also discussed how the boys need to take extra care to help girls and women. They are to open  the doors, pull out chairs, lift packages, and offer help whenever needed. I was happy to hear from my 13 -year-old that her older brother always opens the doors for her when they are together. Yay!

I shared stories of when I was 200 months pregnant with a cartload of kids and another cart filled with food and not one man would open the door for me to exit the grocery store nor would any offer to help me to the car--not even the men who worked at the store. Other times, I'd have to stand on public transportation even though I was visibly as big-as-a-barn because none of the men would give up their seats. I was always so shocked that men could watch me waddle and struggle to do something yet not offer any help.

When we were in Florida I was amazed to see men sit on the buses while older women stood in the aisles clinging to the rails. Once in a while I'd see a man offer his seat, but not often.


I think women have done this to themselves by demanding equal treatment. Instead of demanding better treatment from men, women have asked to be treated like men. There was a time when men honored women and treated them well, but not so much anymore. In fact, when my husband or sons have tried to open doors for women they've been chastised. Perhaps, that it why so many men have learned not to be chivalrous. But I can't help thinking we've lost something along the way. I'm thankful that my husband learned to treat women with respect and kindness and that he continues to be chivalrous. He will always come to the aid of a woman, especially me. He never allows me to carry heavy boxes, he opens my doors, and he treats me with respect. I want my sons to do the same.

This morning, before school, we were reading some stories out of the Friend magazine about people helping others. My 7-year-old shared how she'd helped an older lady. I told her that we should always help others. She replied, "Especially when there are no men around." Guess she got my point :).

Whether it's politically correct or not, I will continue to teach my boys to be chivalrous and I will insist that my children have manners and are polite.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why My Husband Does Our Grocery Shopping

Today, after my son had his speech therapy, I went to Walmart to do the grocery shopping. My husband always does the grocery shopping, but he is in Africa for a business workshop. (Did I ever mention that I'm African-American? Yep. My great-great grandfather was born and raised in South Africa. He later immigrated to the states and worked closely with Brigham Young. So, technically, I am African-American).

Anyway, I took my four-year-old son with me shopping. He was pretty easy for the first while. He stayed by me, held my hand, and listened to me. Until he didn't. Then it was hard--imagine doing a workout with jeans and a coat on. After getting all the food, I realized I needed to go back to get some poster board for my daughter's History Day project which, of course, was across the store. My son refused to cooperate, so I had to hold him and pull the overflowing cart all the way to the other side. After that, I had to go back across to the original side to find a checker because only 4 checkstands were open and 2 of those were for 20 items or less--even if it had been 200 items or less I wouldn't have qualified.

During checkout my son ran off, of course, and I had to chase him. Even though I had fit all my items into one cart, after bagging, there was no way to fit it all in. And, was there an extra basket? No. Anyone to find me an extra basket? No. Anyone to help me? No.

I filled a laundry basket I'd purchased with stuff, hung my purse and another bag filled with stuff off my arm, and then balanced the laundry basket between my chest and thigh. I laced my pinky and ring fingers through the end of the basket and proceeded to hobble out of the store, backwards. When I got to the door, the employee standing there didn't offer to help me. Instead she asked to see my receipt. Seriously?

I said, "Are you serious?" She nodded. I then said, "Well, you'll have to follow me out here (to where the other baskets were located) so I can show you." I hobbled the rest of the way out and found a basket just barely in time before I dropped everything. She didn't follow me outside.

I mean, really. I had Walmart bags all over my basket, including the one hanging off my arm, a boobing kid, and was balancing a laundry basket between my chest and legs. Do I look like a thief? If so, we've got some poor theives where I live.

And this is why my husband does the grocery shopping.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Read-a-Thon Fundraiser

Every year at this time, our elementary school begins its Read-a-Thon fundraiser. Each kid is supposed to find sponsors willing to pay so much money for so many minutes. I love the idea of a read-a-thon. I love the idea of kids reading books instead of watching TV or playing video games. I love the idea of kids using their imaginations as the words in books create visual images in their minds. I love everything about books.

The kids get so excited. Some read and read and read. I can feel their excitement. My own kids get very excited too, especially since the school offers prizes. But, this is where my enthusiasm ends. The student who collects the most money gets a huge prize, while the child who reads the most minutes only gets a small prize. Now, I understand this is a fundraiser and in this economy schools are suffering, but I believe that a child who reads thousands of minutes during the two week period should be rewarded appropriately. I think the message to the kids is wrong because it tells the kids that having a lot of sponsors and making money is more important than reading. Besides, kids can't control how much money someone is willing to donate, but they can control their choice to read instead of playing a video game.

I also think the program should reflect the different ages. A kindergartner is going to have a much more difficult time reading for 800 minutes (the school goal for each child) than a fifth grader, yet the younger kids don't receive any recognition until they have reached exactly the same goals as the older kids. Seems a bit unfair to the younger kids.

I have tried to convince the organizers to offer goals more in line with the younger kids and I've also tried to convince them to reward the highest minutes with the same kind of prize as the most money, but I haven't been successful. So, I've designed my own prizes for my kids according to their abilities and what they want most. What is that prize? A day home with me. Yep, that's what they both said they wanted most.

I want my kids to be readers for the love of reading and the amazing places a book can take them. I want them to have fantastic imaginations and use their minds. This read-a-thon is a great idea, but I'm not so sure the execution of the idea is the best it can be.