Saturday, September 28, 2019

Time to start something new!

It took a lot of work, but I've finally finished outlining and plotting my time-travel novel. I've started writing the actual words--you can follow my progress on Twitter.

I have always wanted to write a time-travel book, but never felt like my skills were up to it. Now, with several books under my belt, I think it's time for the challenge. I hope my science women dynasty of inventors can come to life on the page the way it has in my head! Here's a brief summary of what I'm working with:

Maria Wallace hates science, which is unfortunate given she's the heir to the Wallace family dynasty, four generations of female inventors who have been pioneers in their respective fields. The only thing she likes about being a Wallace is the fame that comes from being a member of her family.

When a prominent historian claims that he has evidence that the original Wallace inventor faked her way into college, and therefore through her whole career, Maria is determined to clear her family's name. She steals her mother's time machine prototype and heads back in time to prove that her great-great-grandmother really was a genius. Using the time machine leaves it vulnerable on the return trip, however, and someone is waiting in the wings to take control of the machine. When Maria returns with the needed proof, she delivers the time machine right into the enemy's hands.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Updates

I am pretty much completely back to normal post-pneumonia, and that means it's time for a writerly-update on what I've been doing lately.

As you know, I love the Storymakers writing conference, and got to teach a class at the 2019 conference. For the 2020 conference, I am involved with Storymakers in a different capacity: I'm on the committee for the 2019 Whitney Awards. The Whitney Awards are held in conjunction with the Storymakers conference, and they honor fiction writers who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am the judging coordinator, so I liaise with our volunteer judges and send them books as they are nominated. It's really fun, and of course my TBR pile has grown a ton since we started taking nominations! And speaking of nominations, we are taking them until October 31st! Anyone can nominate a book, so check out our nomination form here.

I have also started writing a short weekly feature for a local Facebook page. Writing on a deadline is a good exercise for my writing muscles. The feature is called A Slice of Laramie, and it appears Tuesday mornings on This Is Laramie's Facebook page. It's fun to find the humor in small-town living. That must be why so many writers before me have done it!

Now that I'm not sick anymore I've started querying again. I appreciate all the good vibes you can spare on my behalf!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Getting Sick is the WORST

This has been an eventful summer for our family. We sold our home, and bought another fixer-upper about a mile closer to town. Our oldest son turned 10--having a kid who's a decade old is a sobering thought! We visited my parents at their home, where the younger 2 kids and I got the flu. It kind of ruined the end of our vacation. The kiddos got better, but for some reason my flu turned into pneumonia! I've been mostly out of commission for three weeks now. I'm starting to get some energy back, but doing normal things like going to the store wipes me out for hours. On top of that, we have boxes and chaos everywhere from the move. Disorganization is a big anxiety trigger for me, so I'm trying to ignore the mess and do what I can, a little at a time.

Being so sick means I've put querying GHOST GIRLS on hold for a little while. I'm hoping to get it back out there in August. I would appreciate all the good healing vibes you can send me!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Storymakers Recap!

Here's the tl;dr: I had a great time at Storymakers 2019.

My CP, Taryn Skipper, picked me up so we could road trip together. The weather had been sketchy all week, and I was afraid the highway would be closed, but it cooperated! We had about six hours in the car to talk about books and writing and our families, and just everything. Taryn and I have been friends for thirteen years, so a) we're old, and b) we have a lot to talk about.

One of my favorite things about Storymakers is the top-notch education it offers. There's a wide variety of classes, and people at all levels of ability can find something to help them improve. I took two psychology-type classes, two worldbuilding classes, and a handful of random others. For the most part, Taryn and I went to different classes so we could cover more ground and exchange notes afterwards. The highlight for me was teaching my Genetics 101 for Writers class. I was so afraid that no one would show up, but people did! My Powerpoint worked fine, even the embedded clip. I went over time, which I felt bad about, but in my defense the presentation was ten minutes short when I practiced it at home!

I had a query letter critique for my new book, and I was thrilled to hear from the literary agent I met with that my query letter was good to go and that he wanted to read the book! Even if nothing ends up coming from it, it was a nice confidence booster.

Taryn and I met up with some of our writing friends who weren't at the conference to do an escape room. That was a blast, and we DID escape, even though Taryn and I had melty brains from thinking about writing all day. The escape room was within walking distance of the conference hotel, so I think we'll definitely have to try another room next year.

Yes, I'm already planning next year. That's how great the weekend was!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Storymakers is coming up FAST!

I can barely contain myself every day that I wake up and am one day closer to leaving for the Storymakers conference.

It's gonna be amazing. I'm going to learn new things, see old friends, and hopefully not pass out from nervousness when I teach my class on incorporating genetics into fiction. Only 5 more sleeps until I leave!!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Ryan's Stuff

We are casually getting ready to sell our house, which has meant a mad rush to finish up the renovation. Ryan has been working his butt off to paint and put up trim in our bedrooms this week, but he took the time to go through his stuff before he did the reno in our bedroom.

Here are the before photos. You'll notice our walls were not completely painted when I took these:

Dresser

Bedside table

Ryan had a lot of papers and random items on his side of the room that he had to go through. Here's his pile:

It doesn't look like much, but once he started sorting it...

...it exploded!

We recycled a lot of things, and made storage plans for the others. I need to get him a photo album and some boxes for mementos, plus a paper tray like the one I have in my drawer.

After sorting, Ryan put the finishing touches on our room. And a few days later...


The walls are all brown! And there's room for Ryan's table to face out, so he can use the drawer!

My next project is moving my clothes into the closet now that the bar is up.

My next project really should be the kitchen, but since Ryan will be tearing it apart for the renovation, I feel like maybe I'll just discard stuff and not worry too much about organizing it? I dunno...


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: My Stuff

Once again, my Tuesday got away from me and I had to do my tidying on Wednesday. It was time to tackle my side of the master bedroom.

My dresser, a catch-all spot for things I want to keep. The floor in front of my dresser is also a storage place.

The closet is just full of stuff piled up, as is the floor space between the closet and the table.

My bedside table is another catch-all spot. I'm sensing a theme here. And perhaps an explanation for why my room is so untidy.

Ryan was at work, and I knew he'd be busy with a renovation project when he got home, so I didn't bother with his stuff. Hopefully we'll get to it later this week.

You know the drill by now: I took all of my stuff out of the bedroom and piled it up in the living room. 


When I was about halfway through I had convinced myself that it wasn't so bad; I didn't really have that much stuff, it was just unorganized. But by the time I'd gotten it all out to the living room it was clear that I just had a ton of stuff. That also happened to be unorganized.

I swept the floor and dusted after getting everything out. The closet had legit cobwebs in the corner. So gross. 

After sorting and discarding, I put the things that I had a place for in their spots right away. The stuff I didn't know where to put got sorted in the living room.

The "keep, but where?" pile

My biggest priorities were to have an assigned spot for my purse, nothing in front of my dresser, and to get the printer out of the hallway into our bedroom.

Ta da! Room for the printer!

Look at that closet!

Nothing in front of the dresser! Those bags are on the side, they don't count. And the top of my dresser is so much tidier!

You might not be able to tell, but my purse is on the lower shelf of the table instead of on the floor in front of it. SUCCESS!

I am really happy with how tidy my side of the room is. If we weren't planning on moving out of this house soon, I would get some shelves for the closet to make it more manageable, but for now it is fine. Having the floor clear makes such a difference in navigating the room. I can't wait to help Ryan with his half!


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Amelia's Room

Another late TUT post, but in my defense, I spent yesterday morning at the boys' school helping out with their Read-a-Thon. So Amelia's room had to wait until today.

The biggest issue with Amelia's room is of course that she is only 4, and it's hard for her to clean up by herself. My goal was to simplify her room as much as possible and make clear places for things to go.


Her room isn't too messy in this "before" photo, but hopefully you can see that the farm and other toys (to the left of the play kitchen) are just sitting to the side, without a true assigned spot. The play kitchen food is another major issue in her room; it contributes to a lot of the mess simply because there is so much of it.


In this photo of the pile of toys, you might notice in the background the furniture from the boys' room. Ryan is putting up the trim this week, so we cleared everything out of their room and put it in the living room. It was a million times easier because the room had been KonMari'd and everything had an assigned space. We just moved the assigned spaces out to the living room. 

The "keep" pile. Unsurprisingly, Amelia wanted to keep pretty much everything. 

Sorting through toys is hard work!



I wasn't 100% sure of how I wanted to organize everything, so I brought it all into Amelia's room and started grouping things into piles to see what might fit on the shelves. This is what that looked like when we took a break for lunch.

Finished product: the shelves have "figures" (My Little Ponies, farm animals, etc) in one cube, Barbies in another, a "random" cube, and dress-ups in the last cube. Two of the shelves have stuffed animals in bins.

I bought small bins to contain the play kitchen food and accoutrements. That should make it easier to clean up. The baby dolls and accessories take up the rest of the space under the bed.

I love Dollar Store bins. They are perfect for storage. No expensive bins needed; cheapo ones work just fine!

Having Amelia's room so well organized will make it easy to move her into the living room when Ryan puts the trim up in her room. I better get cracking on our room! It's a disaster, to put it mildly.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: The Boys' Room

I did Tidying Up Tuesday on Wednesday this week. My sons were home from school on Spring Break, so I decided to tidy up their room with them today. A friend of mine asked if I was sure I wanted them around when I tidied their room. Her reasoning was that it is way easier to get rid of stuff when the kids aren't around, and she's not wrong! However, my experience with their clothes showed me that when the boys feel like they have ownership over the organization of their things, they are more likely to keep them organized.

I still snuck some stuff into the trash bag and giveaway pile when they weren't looking.

Here's some before photos:

The cubes are nice, but the stuff on top has gotten out of control. And inside those cubes? Chaos.

This art table takes up a lot of floor space, and is pretty redundant now that the craft table is organized and kept clear for drawing.

I made the boys pull everything out of their room. Benjy decided that we would sort the toys on the carpeted section of the living room, so it would be soft to sit on. All the toys went there. As they moved stuff to the living room, I dusted the cube shelves and swept the floor of their bedroom.

Sorting

I told the boys that they didn't have to feel obligated to keep something they didn't play with, regardless of who gave it to them. Benjy is much better at this than Sam is!

The final "keep" pile. They are showing their feelings about how much they now have to organize.

Figuring out where to put things.

I let the boys decide where they wanted the cubes to go, and they actually agreed that they wanted the same color cubes next to each other. It was a miracle that they were able to make that decision together and not turn it into an argument.

We labeled each shelf and each cube with its contents. The things that were once piled on top of the shelves are now in a laundry bin.

I asked both of the boys (separately) if they thought they'd be able to keep their room clean now, and both of them said yes. They have done a great job of keeping their drawers nice and the craft table clear, so I have confidence that they will be able to keep their room organized, too.

Next week: Amelia's room! But I am in charge of an assembly at the boys' school that day, so we will probably do Tidying Up Wednesday again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Cupboards

You may recall from my post on my books that we have three sets of nice cupboards under our bookshelves.

They look nice on the outside, but on the inside...



This cupboard actually wasn't too bad, once I took the photo albums out and got them on the bookshelf.

As always, I took everything out of the cupboards and piled them up in the living room. I also included the three-drawer cart that was 2/3 of the way dealt with on paper day, because it had a lot of things like paper clips and tape that I knew I'd be moving into the cupboards.


I also included this box that lives on top of our fridge that holds batteries and A LOT of random crap.

 I wanted to get office supplies into this cupboard, because I can never find tape or batteries or paper clips when I want them. Pulling the heavy box down from on top of the fridge is also a pain. So after another trip to the dollar store, I had some handy bins for my office supplies.

This cupboard has tape, batteries, the stapler, envelopes, and light bulbs. I had five rolls of scotch tape because I could never remember if I had any in the random box, so I kept buying more. Now it's easy to see what I have!

The other two cupboards mostly held our games. I love board games, but no one else in our family does except Amelia. So I was really honest with myself about what games we would actually play in the future, and got rid of the rest. I even got rid of some of the Clue games in my collection (but not all of them, I'm not a monster).

Kids' games. The green bin is for games without a box, like Slamwich, and decks of cards.

"Grown-up" games. Stacking the games on their sides instead of on top of each other is AWESOME. So much easier to get out what you want without messing everything up.

This was a smaller project, as they go, but one that I felt really helped me get organized and stop resigning myself to clutter. It also directly addressed things that were frustrating me: the random box on top of the fridge, and never knowing when I was running low on office supplies.

My little helper fell asleep while I was cleaning up.

Next time: It's Spring Break next Tuesday, which means the boys will be home all day and can help do their room! It's going to be a nightmare, I will tell you that right now. It'll be an all day project, and at least one of us will cry (probably me).

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: The Bonus Room

When we bought our house, it had an unfinished storage room off the living room that we used as a catch-all room for stuff we wanted to keep but didn't really use. When Ryan re-did our living room, he finished off the bonus room, but kept it as a slightly distinct room from the living room with a pair of barn doors. We still used it as a catch-all room.

Remy's litter box, and a bunch of other random stuff

The kids' craft table, always a disaster

As I mentioned last week, as I did the sheets and towels I had Ryan move the black shelf into Amelia's room. That opened the space under the loft bed, so he moved the craft table into that space.


The stuff of nightmares

Remy's litter box is now on the opposite side of the room. Lucky we have a tolerant cat.

I straightened up our living room, and started moving things out of the bonus room into that space. I immediately made a pile for recycling, which was mostly Benjy's hundreds of discarded drawings. The kid goes through paper quickly.

Remy was excited that the top of the freezer was cleared off

So... many... crayons...

The craft table is the biggest issue in the bonus room, and the biggest issue with the craft table is that the kids leave their markers, crayons, papers, and everything else out instead of putting them away. But to be fair, a lot of the drawers of the craft table still had my stuff in them. It was time to clear everything out, sort it, and designate a final resting place for everything.


Crayons, markers, and colored pencils now have a labeled box (hooray for washi tape!). Honestly, when it came to sorting through all of those I was so tempted to just throw them all away and buy new art supplies. But instead I sharpened all the colored pencils and sorted through the dead markers. It took FOREVER because we don't have an electric pencil sharpener. We will as soon as I can get to Walmart, though.

The drawers are now labeled, too.

The finished space under the loft bed.

Amelia enjoying the fruits of my labors.

The only thing left to do is buy a small recycling bin for this room so Benjy can put his used papers directly in there. I think that will help him clean up after himself so the space never gets cluttered up again.

Next week: the living room cupboards

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tidying Up Tuesday: Sheets and Towels

While sheets and towels are not stored together at my house, I wish they were. Such is the rationale behind my decision to tidying these two categories together. 

Our house doesn't have a linen closet, or anything that might do as one, so for now our towels are in a dresser in the hallway.
I took this photo before organizing the papers; it doesn't look like this anymore!

Our sheets are in two places: the kids sheets are in a set of plastic drawers in Amelia's closet, and everything else is in a cardboard box left over from our move. Which was three and a half years ago. Time for the sheets to find a permanent home.

The cardboard box gets moved around a lot; it's currently in our bonus room.

I pulled everything out and brought it to the living room. The dresser I left in place, obviously, because I wasn't going to move it by myself! Plus, it works well where it is.


Sorting through sheets. Turns out we have a ridiculous number of pillowcases, 90% of which did not have a sheet set to match.

Because I don't have a convenient central place to store sheets, I decided to split them up by the room they'd be used in. I bought under-the-bed sized plastic tubs for our room and the boys' room. Amelia has a loft bed, so I bought a taller tub that would fit on her closet shelf for her sheets. I also used a container I already had for guest sheets.

We have two sheet sets that fit our hide-a-bed. I also saved some of our pillowcases that were in good shape. The rest of the pillowcases went to Goodwill or the trash can.

The boys' sheets, ready to be hidden under their bed.

The towels are doing well in their dresser, so I decided to keep them there. I did rearrange them, however. I also got rid of a lot of the towels in our "dirty towels" drawer because there were so many of them. Those went to Ryan to use in his workshop. 

So much nicer!

This project had a domino effect: I got the plastic drawer set out of Amelia's room, which meant I had  room to move the cube shelf that was in the bonus room into her room (I'm going to use it to organize her toys). The plastic drawers went in the space where the cube shelf was, because I'm using it now to hold our extra couch cushion covers. All the stuff that was on the cube shelf is now strewn across our living room. Ryan moved the kids' craft table into the space where the cube shelf was, so... you get the picture. The tl;dr version: The bonus room is now next on my list.