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Monday, February 28, 2011

Tired and Broken

"Maybe you're tired and broken/ Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear." - "Box of Rain" by the Grateful Dead

This is the perfect song choice for today. I am exhausted, I have so much going on in my head I can't seem to think straight, and my words are only half spoken because I didn't write a single sentence in my novel all weekend. I still achieved my weekly goal, thanks to a couple of very productive days, but I am left feeling unsatisfied with what I have done. My question is, how can I take care of myself (meaning by writing to save my sanity!), if I am consumed with taking care of everyone around me? Isn't is a pain when real life gets in the way of a much calmer, nicer, creative life?

So, taking into consideration the way this week is starting out (sick kid that is not mine but I take care of and worry endlessly about, as well as being very worn out myself), my goal is simple. Continue doing a daily writing prompt, which has been great by the way, and try to complete one chapter in my fourth Willow Ryan book. There is so much coming up in this latest installment of Willow's life, and I can't wait to write about, but I guess I have to. Hopefully the week will get better though. You'll hear about it either way! Have a good Monday, everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011


"I come home in the morning/ I go to bed feeling the same way/ I ain't nothing but tired/ Man, I'm just tired and bored with myself." - "Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen

When did six-year-olds become bored with themselves? The girls had an early release from school, so I picked them both up at noon. Normally I just have Alana that early, so today was a little different. I was getting their lunch ready, when all of a sudden, Riley dramatically collapsed onto a chair and declared that she was competely bored with herself. What?! I asked her why and she said that she couldn't think of anything fun to do. I gave her some suggestions, all of which were shot down as soon as the words left my mouth.

Now I'm sure my family will quickly contradict what I'm about to say, but I honestly don't remember being bored like that when I was a kid. There were always fun things to do - games to play, dolls to dress, pictures to draw, books to read, shows to watch, and a little sister to pull me around on my skates while I held on to the jump rope I had tied around her waist. What? That's not what jump ropes are for? Oh well.

I think I need to add some more creative play and imaginative work into our lesson plans for this summer. That's when my real work begins! I will be homeschooling both girls from June through August, so my job goes from being approximately 30 hours a week to about 50. I better get busy! So many lessons to plan and stories to write, but never enough time. I guess I don't have to worry about being "bored with myself"!

Your Song

"And you can tell everybody this is your song/ It may be quite simple but now that it's done/ I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind/ That I put down in words/ How wonderful life is while you're in the world." -
"Your Song" by Elton John

In Secrets, I first mention that Willow Ryan has always wished that she had a song that described her in some way, that made her feel like it was written especially for her. Going off of that desire, she names her baby after a song so it can start it's life with something she never had.

I have lots of songs that fit me (check out the August 27, 2010 post), which is what made me think of incorporating the idea into my books. Do any of you out there have a song that you feel is "yours" in some way? I would love to hear your comments on this topic!

P.S.-Here are a few name songs that I think are especially great!

"Rhiannon" - Fleetwood Mac
"Sweet Baby James" - James Taylor
"Rockin' Robin" - Bobby Day
"Johnny B. Goode" - Chuck Berry
"Quinn the Eskimo" - Bob Dylan
"Jennifer Juniper" - Donovan
"Jet" - Paul McCartney and Wings
"Annie's Song" - John Denver

The list could go on and on and on and on! Oh no, too many "on and ons". Now I'm going to have Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" stuck in my head all day! Sorry about that.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Willow vs. Shannon

"I'm tired of looking 'round rooms/ Wondering what I've got to do/ Or who I'm supposed to be/ I don't want to be anything other than me." - "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin Degraw

When I first came up with the idea of Willow, I knew exactly what kind of character she would be. Some writers brainstorm or chart, trying to come up with all of these traits that make up one personality, but I instantly knew who she was. Here are the top five characteristics that make Willow who she is:

1. Independent
2. Caring
3. Emotional
4. Perfectionistic
5. Musical, not just in the traditional sense, but also that music is
always in her head and in her soul.

Someone made the comment to me not that long along that they are surprised when Willow does something so different from what I would do, because in some ways, I did make her similar to me. If I had to list five traits that make me, Shannon, who I am, they would be:

1. Emotional
2. Opinionated
3. Intelligent
4. Perfectionistic
5. Creative

I'm sure you can see the similarities. I think a lot of writers put a little bit of themselves into their characters, either on purpose or by accident. After all, you write what you know.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Turn it Around

"'Cause you had a bad day, you're taking one down/ You sing a sad song just to turn it around/ You say you don't know, you tell me don't lie/ You work on a smile and you go for a ride/ You had a bad day..." - "Bad Day" by Daniel Powder

Yesterday was a bad day. I didn't get nearly enough writing done, I spent seven hours trying to take care of a four-year-old who was determined to make my life difficult, and was thoroughly embarrassed while watching her run wild at gymnastics and cause the rest of the children in her class to follow suit. This is not normal behavior for her! As her nanny, I felt responsible for her acting out, and am sure that some of the moms who were watching were thinking the same thing. Sigh. It was just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I felt like Alexander in that old children's book. Does anyone remember reading that in first grade? A true classic that everyone can relate to at some point.

Today is going to be better. Alana and I will turn our week around. We have to! That's what I told her when I left yesterday and she apologized for misbehaving. We will have a happier day tomorrow. A better day. A day with no tantrums and no time outs. Maybe a day with a nice, long nap! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

These Dreams

"These dreams go on when I close my eyes/ Every second of the night I live another life/ These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside/ Every moment I'm awake the further I'm away." - "These Dreams" by Heart

Is this just totally cool or am I losing my mind? I had another dream last night that starred the characters of my book series. It was nothing that would drastically change the course of my writing, but I will definitely be adding this dream to book four. It was so sweet and so real, it almost felt like I was watching a real family interact, not just figments of my imagination that have taken life on my computer screen, and now apparently in my subconscious dream state.

Do any other writers out there dream about their characters, or dream that they themselves are a part of their books? It would be nice to know I'm not the only wacko one, but I think I'm kind of leaning toward thinking that this really is pretty amazing. Too bad I don't sleep much. Just think of the inspiration I would get if I slept like a normal person!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Things That They Stood For

"Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham/ Can you tell me where he's gone/ He freed a lot of people/ But it seems the good they die young/ You know I just looked around and he's gone." - "Abraham, Martin, and John" by Dion

Ah, Presidents' Day. A day that some lucky people (like me) get off of work, but does anyone really think about the reason for this holiday anymore? Not to get overly political or anything, but there was a time where the President of the United States was highly respected by most, if not all of the public, someone to admire. They stood for something. If people were a little more open minded and willing to see the big picture instead of just focusing on the negatives, maybe the same thing would be true today.

Okay, enough with the politics and onto the writing! I accomplished my two chapter goal last week, and am now over 120 pages into my fourth novel. The more I write, the happier I get with Willow's character and where she is going in life. I think one thing a writer has to do in order to create a good book is to have believable characters that his/her readers can relate to. Willow is by no means perfect, but as her journey has continued, she has grown so much and learned a lot from her experiences in life. By creating characters that seem like real people, with hopes and dreams, fears and worries, I am aiming to write a story that readers can see themselves in. Who hasn't at one time worried that they weren't a good enough parent, kept a secret that was eating them alive, worked so hard to the point of exhaustion to try to give their family a better life, or had dreams so big they fear they may never come true, but still have to dream because it's part of who they are? There is a little bit of Willow Ryan in all of us.

This week, my goal is to crack open a book I bought last week and start doing a writing exercise every single day. I'm hoping to expand my knowledge of writing and find new ways to think and new ways to convey ideas in all of my writing. In addition to the homework I am assigning myself, I also plan to write at least 20 pages this week. I'm excited to see what happens next in Willow's story!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to Santa Elena, CA

"Making your way in the world today, takes everything you've got/ Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot/ Wouldn't you like to get away/ Sometimes you want to go/ Where everybody knows your name/ And they're always glad you came." - "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", theme song to "Cheers"

Before I started writing the "Willow Ryan" series, I brainstormed to come up with a place that would welcome Willow and take her in like family. She needed somewhere to belong and have people look out for her even though she could take care of herself. With those thoughts in mind, the little town of Santa Elena was born.

Located on the Pacific Coast near Los Angeles, Santa Elena is a small multicultural community where kids ride their bikes through the streets, tourists come to shop, and groups of family and friends gather at the beach for bonfires every summer. It has a welcoming, small town feel and once you arrive you never want to leave.

Willow lives in a cozy yellow duplex a couple miles east of the ocean. The neighborhood is made up of mid-century ranch houses, and a variety of fruit and palm trees are sprinkled throughout the yards. On any given day you can walk down Oak Hill Lane and smell a barbeque going, hear children playing in their backyards, or maybe even hear one of your favorite classic rock songs floating out of the open windows of Willow's home.

On the other side of Santa Elena you will find the eclectic downtown shopping district, home to the baby boutique Two Peas in a Pod, owned by Peggy Maguire, Willow's friend, boss, and, as Willow puts it, her fairy godmother in disguise. As the series goes on, readers are introduced to the toy shop, Thyme to Play, and the one-of-a-kind dress shop, Time in a Bottle, owned by a unique hippie that may not have a good memory but always an interesting story to tell. You are guarenteed to find something you love when shopping in the downtown boutiques.

Locals know that the waves can't be beat in Santa Elena, so there are always diehard surfers out in the Pacific throughout the year, including Denny, who grew up riding the waves and often has his lime green surfboard hanging out of the back of his station wagon.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your beach chair and let's hit the sand in Santa Elena! We'll get some lunch from Paco's Tacos and then join Willow and the gang for a beach party full of music, laughter, and great friends. Enjoy the trip!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dreams I'd Like to Sell

"Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions/ I keep my visions to myself/ It's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and/ Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?" - "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac

Yes, I do have some dreams I'd like to sell! Any takers? I have had dreams that starred the characters in my "Willow Ryan" series before, but the one I had last night was so real, it seemed like these figments of my imagination were actual people that I know.

It was actually kind of neat, because the story arc in my dream was a little different than where I thought the fourth book was going to go, but I actually like this idea a little better! It takes Willow's professional life in a direction I hadn't considered, and I think it will add to her journey. Pretty cool, huh? Too bad all great ideas don't just come to me in my sleep!

Check back tomorrow for a look inside the the charming beach town of Santa Elena, CA, home to Willow, Denny, Peggy, and the rest of the gang!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Suffer the Rain

"But nobody's never gonna tell you the way/ You gotta figure it out boys and suffer the rain/ And the fools in the night and the heat in the day/ When all you ever really wanted was for someone to understand." - "Film Noir" by The Gaslight Anthem

I love this song. Whenever I hear it, I think of how you have to work as hard as you can to get where you want to go, and no one is going to do the work for you. You may suffer along the way, but the pain is part of the journey. So true. These guys know what they're talking about.

As far as my journey toward a career in writing goes, I am once again renewing my efforts to get an agent. I know it will happen, but with "time time ticking away" (another line from "Film Noir"), I am getting a little anxious. I am not by nature a patient person, so it takes a lot of effort to wait for something for years, but I know it will be worth it when I finally find the right agent.

In the meantime, I am writing. It's the best therapy I know, and the only kind I can afford! Seriously though, I am now over 100 pages into the fourth Willow book, and I am really pleased with where the story is going. Sometimes I know exactly what will take place in the coming pages or chapters and sometimes I am just as surprised at what my characters do or say as my readers are. It's fun to see what will happen next in the charming town of Santa Elena, so I better get busy and continue their story!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Right Words Never Come

"Take another shot of courage/ Wonder why the right words never come/ You just get numb/ It's another tequila sunrise/ This old world still looks the same/ Another frame." - "Tequila Sunrise" by The Eagles

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about sending off a partial manuscript to Andrea Cirillo, an agent from the Jane Rotrosen Agency who had requested the first three chapters of my novel Secrets. I was very excited but at the same time realistic about my chances, and this is why. Today I got my SASE back, and as I stared momentarily at my own neat, tiny writing on the outside of the envelope that had traveled to New York and back, I knew. The rejection was brief and polite, and she said some encouraging words which are definitely appreciated, but at that moment nothing mattered other than the fact that it was a rejection. They all look the same after you realize that it's a no.

In the literary world, writers aren't supposed to take rejections personally, because after all, this is a business. But to me, this is just about as personal as you can get. How can I remain unattached to my work, unfeeling toward the 98,000 words I wrote straight from the heart? The answer is, I can't. I have spent the last two years pouring my heart and soul out into that book, and to me, it is painful to see those "thanks but no thanks" words typed across a piece of letterhead.

I realize that the opinons of literary agents shouldn't effect me like they do, and on a professional and logical level I understand the business side of writing. But on an emotional level, it hurts when the right words never come. The words that say my writing is good enough, that it means something and is worthy of being published. That being said, I am not giving up. I have invested way too much time, hope, and tears to walk away from something that means so much to me. I will keep trying, and I have to believe that eventually I will succeed. That's what gives me "another shot of courage" to send out more letters and work like crazy to make my dreams come true. Here's to hoping for better luck next time...

A New Week, A New Goal

"Sunshine came softly through my window today..." - "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan

It's bright, sunny, and warm today, and for once I can honestly say that I don't hate it. Normally I favor dark, cold days, but this is a nice change of pace. I spent the morning with Riley who stayed home sick (she's fine now), and when we went to pick her sister up from school, we actually had the windows rolled down and the heat turned off. It was kind of refreshing. But I still want winter to return and stick around for a while. Go figure!

With working all morning and not getting in my normal two hour writing block that I try to do Monday-Friday before I head off to the job that actually pays the bills, I already feel like I am behind in accomplishing my new goal. I met my goal for last week (yea me!), and now have six chapters completed in book four of the "Willow Ryan" series. My goal for this week is to write two more chapters. That shouldn't be a problem, unless a child gets sick again, I have computer problems (please, no more!), or I become infected with one of the millions of germs that seem to be following the girls around like the dust cloud that trailed Pigpen in the old Peanuts cartoons. Sometimes I feel like a walking Petrie dish! I guess that is one of the occupational hazards that come along with being a nanny.

So here's to a healthy, problem-free, productive week for us all!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

People are Strange

"When you're strange/ Faces come out of the rain/ When you're strange/ No one remembers your name/ When you're strange/ When you're strange/ When you're strange." - "People are Strange" by The Doors

If there is one thing I am certain about, it is that people are indeed strange. Every one of us in some way is strange, weird, odd, unique. I heard The Doors on the radio the other day and it got me to thinking about how different all of us really are.

Yesterday I was writing about the creative writing class Willow is taking, and I had the teacher give the assignment for everyone to describe themselves using two colors, two numbers, and two places. Just think of the possibilities! No one will get to know what Willow wrote until the book is finished, but this is what I came up with for my own description of myself. I would love it if you would leave a comment with your personal "2x3" description.

I think in shades of blue and red, and my California childhood was made up of classic rock songs, cool cars, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. I am a product of 1982 but a child of the 60's at heart, and for some unknown reason I am obsessed with Barrow, Alaska.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

California Dreamin'

"All the leaves are brown/ And the sky is gray/ I've been for a walk on a winter's day/ I'd be safe and warm/ If I was in L.A./ California dreamin' on such a winter's day." - "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas

Today I woke up to a four inch think blanket of snow covering the ground, which is pretty unusual in this part of the country. This has been the snowiest winter I have ever seen! Today was a snow day of course, so the girls and I spent the morning together, most of it outside enjoying our winter wonderland. Until we each got hit with one too many snowballs. And snow went down someone's back. And my socks got soaking wet. Then I was definitely California Dreamin'!

But still, I love winter, and I love the snow, and it was nice to hang out with the girls and watch them just be kids, having fun on an unexpected day off of school.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Nice

"You know the more we talk about it/ It only makes it worse to live without it/ But let's talk about it/ Wouldn't it be nice." - "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys

I know that these lyrics have nothing to do with writing and hopes for a future career, but they kind of work. The more I talk and think about the possility that someday I could be a published author with a book deal and spend my days writing, creating, and daydreaming, the harder it is to wait for that seemingly impossible dream to come true. But still, I have to talk about it so the dream/goal stays alive. And yes, it would be nice!

I'm sure that most writers out there who have made it once felt the same way I do now. I have read so much about authors' success stories, ways to break into the business, tips from the experts, etc., and they all have one common piece of advice. If you want to be a writer, then write! So that's what I'm doing. I'm writing every chance I get, and I can't say enough how much I appreciate all of you out there who take the time to read my blog, answer my questions on the writing forums, and download my "Willow Ryan" ebooks. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Half Way There

"Oh, we're half way there/ Oh oh, livin' on a prayer!" - Bon Jovi

Last week I wrote about how I was giving myself a writing goal each week, and my first goal was to complete 40 pages of my fourth novel that I started about two weeks ago. Unfortunately, do to unforseen circumstances, that did not happen. As of last night I was a little over half way there, hence the song of the day. And just like Bon Jovi's Tommy, the dock worker, and his waitress wife, Gina, we're all just livin' on a prayer every day, aren't we?

Anyway, I have hope that this week will be more productive. I am currently on page 52 in the latest "Willow Ryan" book, and my goal for the week is to write 30 pages and complete a poem I have been working on. It would be nice if I could just spend all day writing, but I live in the real world and writing all day never happens. Wouldn't it be nice though... (that gives me an idea for tomorrow's song of the day!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Dreaded Question

"Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees/ And the flowers and the trees/ And the moon up above/ And a thing called love." - "The Birds and the Bees" by Jewel Akens

Oh boy. It finally happened. I had been bracing myself for this quesion for a couple of years now, and yesterday Alana asked it. "Where do babies come from?" I told her that was a very good question, and it was something she needed to talk to her mom about. She looked at me very seriously and said, "Why? Don't you know?" Um, yeah. I went on to say that yes, I do know where babies come from, but that is something that her mom would explain to her. She went on eating her lunch, and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that maybe, just maybe, the child with a thousand questions a day would drop this topic of conversation. I was wrong.

Alana wanted to know why a baby grows in a mommy's tummy, so I told her that that is the way God made mommies tummies, so a baby can grow in there if she wants to have one. I figured I was okay with that answer, and maybe it would satisfy the four-year-old's curiosity for a little while. Like until 6:00 when her mom got home. Once again, I was wrong.

She looked at me, threw her arms up in the arm (always dramatic!) and exclaimed, "How does a baby even get in there?!" No way was I touching that question! As a professional, I make it a point never to cross the "Mommy Line", an invisible line that separates nanny from parent. It's very hard at times since I have been taking care of Riley and Alana for nearly five years and spend a lot of time with them, but some things are just not in my jurisdiction. What will she come up with next?!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Something Good

"Something tells me I'm into something good!" - Herman's Hermits

After much deliberation, I decided to lower the prices of my ebooks on Amazon and B&N, and guess what? I sold my first copy on Amazon yesterday! Go me! I know it's only one ebook, but it's still exciting.

Tomorrow I will be mailing off my submission for Secrets to the Jane Rotrosen Agency in New York. As I looked over the first three chapters that Andrea Cirillo, the agent I had queried, requested, I kept getting more and more excited. I don't know why, but this submission feels different for some reason. Still, I'm a realist (who has to pull her head out of the clouds at times!), and I know that literary success is a longshot at best, but still, I am much more hopeful after getting a positive response from this agent than I was a week ago. I'll keep you posted!

Dancing Queen(s)

"You can dance, you can jive/ Having the time of your life/ See that girl, watch that scene/ Digging the dancing queen." - "Dancing Queen" by Abba

I do not like Abba and I do not like disco, but I have a feeling that Riley and Alana would both like this song. Today is dance day, and both girls are very excited to start learning their dances for their spring recital. Seriously, is there anything cuter than a little girl in a leotard/tutu, wearing ballet shoes, with her hair in a bun?

Ugh, the ballet bun! My arch nemesis! It took me literally months to get the hang of putting Alana's hair in a bun, and she hates wearing it as much as I hate making it. She likes a LOW ponytail ("Down here!" she always says, patting the back of her neck), but for dance, her hair has to be high up in a bun. There is no alternative. Alana suffers for her art...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"Come on now, celebration/ Let's all celebrate and have a good time/ Celebration!" - "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang

Today I have a reason to celebrate! Last night I received a response from an agent that I sent a query letter to, and she wants to see three chapters and a detailed synopsis of Secrets! She actually seemed excited about my book, which gives me a lot of hope. As any writer who is just beginning his/her career knows, you have to celebrate the little victories because they can be few and far between. This is a very fickle business, and when a professional says that your book has potential and they want to read it, it's a jump up and down, shout as loud as you can, laugh like nothing can go wrong moment.

I'm excited. Can you tell? But still, I'm keeping my head out of the clouds. Yes, it's fun to dream of literary success, but I know I still have a long way to go. But who knows? Maybe now I'm on my way...