Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Transitional Phase

I'm going through another transitional phase. This one doesn't have a new name or category, not like "teenager" or "graduate" or "mother" or "divorcee" or "wife" did.

I don't get a new title, just new circumstances to adjust to.

Daughter, the elder, graduated high school and will be leaving for college in August. Daughter, the younger, completed elementary school and will become a middle schooler this fall.

These changes in educational venue are coming with changes in our house, a room shuffle, changing a bedroom into an office and changing who sleeps in which room.

I feel weird.

I mean, I always feel weird, but this is a weird I'm not used to.

I'll still have a kid at home, so I'm not an empty-nester, but my first fledgling is flying on her own now. On any given day, she will prepare her own lunch, plan her own schedule. I won't know, necessarily, if she's had a good day or a bad one.

That feels so strange. We've always been so close her whole life. I want her to go to college and be a successful adult, of course, but at the same time I want her stay right here and be my little girl forever. Parenthood and teaching, two roles where the goal is to make yourself obsolete.

On the other hand, my other daughter will attend the same school I teach at now. I'll know MORE about her school day than I've ever known before. I'll know all her classmates and her other teachers. I'm probably even going to be her teacher at some point, since I'm the whole Spanish department at my school. She'll spend time in my classroom with me instead of at aftercare after school.

And me? I don't know what this means for me yet. Will I have more time to myself? Will getting that office make a big difference in my writing productivity?

Throughout my life, I've been told that I was going through a phase. I guess I thought I would be done going through phases when I became an adult. I guess I'm learning that life isn't a game you can learn to play well and just keep playing. The rules change all the time. Here's hoping the next phase is a good one!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What's in a name? #IWSG June

It's the first Wednesday again, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. The June 6 question - What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

The awesome co-hosts this week are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor! Be sure to pop over and see what they have to say, too!

For my Menopausal Superhero series, both the titles and the character names came pretty easily. Going Through the Change was the working title pretty much from day one for the first book, and finding Change of Life (book 2) and Face the Change (book 3), was a quick sidestep and a little bit of thinking about phrases using the word Change. Not too difficult. 

Naming the characters was a little tricky, but still not anything I struggled over for long. Once I'd gotten far enough in to know about how old my characters were, I just went to census records for popular names during their likely birth years. I was going for an "everywoman" kind of feel for these characters, so giving them common names (Helen, Patricia, Jessica, Linda, Cindy) went along with that. 

There were some personal Easter Eggs in there as well, since Helen was my grandmother's name (though she preferred to go by Liz, a nickname off of her middle name, Elizabeth) and Patricia is my mother's name (though she prefers to be called Pat). I have a cousin named Jessica, too (who goes by Jessie). I liked Linda because it's a bilingual name and Linda Alvarez lives her life in two languages. 

Other works have been harder to name. His Other Mother (unpublished) went through a lot of titles while I was writing it. For the longest time it was just called Sherry, after the main character, even though I knew that wouldn't be the title in the end. 

The short story I finished last week still hasn't settled on a title even though I think the story is otherwise complete ("The H.O.A" or maybe "Late Bloomer"). Sometimes I can't title something until I've written it completely and the title rises up and suggests itself somewhere along the way. 

In my current WIP, working title Thursday's Children, the main character has been named Kye'luh the whole time, but I've tried out a bunch of different spellings for it: Ki'lah, Kai-luh, Kyla, etc.  Her youngest cousin used to be Jared, but became Camden when I realized I had two J characters with two syllable names: Jason and Jared. Could be confusing. 

A name can be so important. It can give ethnic cues, generational information, geography hints. The same with names of books. The title can give you tone and genre, as well as a hint as to the plot or theme. These seemingly little choices, can really impact a reader's experience with your work! 

How about you, friends? Got a character whose name you love? Or would change given the chance? how about a book title? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Ethel Merman Moments: The Doctor Mom Blog Hop

It's May, that time of year when we're all reminded to appreciate our mothers. Luckily, in my case, that isn't difficult. Mom and I have always been close, and I find a lot to appreciate about her. It might even be her fault that I'm a writer.

I went looking for a picture of us to share for this post and ran across this gem of the early 1990s. We're on the back porch at my grandmother's house, and even though I'm a college student, I'm being silly and sitting on her lap. I love this picture for the dynamic it portrays: the way we have fun together. (even though I don't look like me at all--short hair and makeup? Who the heck is that girl?)

I really wish I had a picture that captured our "Ethel Merman" moments. One time, Mom and I were traveling together, and we were in a swimming pool cooling off at our hotel. We were both exhausted and a little punchy from a long day on the road.

My mom is not a good swimmer. In fact, she never puts her head or face in the water. So I was trying to tease her about her water moves. I said, "You're no Ethel Merman." (I meant Esther Williams; we're both old movie fans).

I know this is one of those "you had to be there" things, but the idea of mixing up Ethel Merman, known for her big voice and personality with Esther Williams, known for her delicate water ballet cracked us both up. In fact, we laughed till we cried. 

Ever since then, when we make each other laugh till we cry (which happens on average, once per visit), we call it having an "Ethel Merman Moment." 

So in celebration of my mother and mothers in general, I'm participating in a blog hop today, helping an author friend celebrate her mother's book release! (see below)


BLURB: It’s Saturday, and Gregory Green can’t wait to have fun with his dad on the riding lawnmower, but something is wrong. Sammy, his teddy bear and best friend, won’t get out of bed. Gregory is worried when he sees Sammy’s left leg is torn. This is a case for Doctor Mom! Can they fix Sammy? And just how did Sammy get hurt in the first place?


"Doctor Mom is an adorable story that shows how Moms can fix anything—even a torn limb on a beloved teddy bear! Children will enjoy the lovable little bear who needs a stitch or two and his boy who plays dress-up as a doctor." – Wanda Luthman, award-winning author of Little Birdie Grows Up

“A sweet and heartfelt tale kids can easily identify with, and all of that with a wonderful touch of magic.” – Tonja Drecker, reviewer at Bookworm for Kids



Elaine Kaye first created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup, thus inspiring the story Pea Soup Disaster. Doctor Mom is the second book in A Gregory Green Adventure series and highlights something all moms and children can relate to; a beloved stuffed animal in need of a repair.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home.

She is a grandmother of three boys.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Devouring Books

I've always been a reader.

Heck, I think I was a reader before I could read.

I'd cajole my mother into reading books to me over and over until I had them memorized, including which words were on which pages.

I'd build houses out of my books and sit inside them and read other books.

As an adult, I still read a lot, but of course, it's not as much as I did back then.

There are other demands on my time, and, here in the twenty-first century, I have so many choices for how to spend my limited leisure hours, that I sometimes don't choose books, but play video games, listen to podcasts, or watch TV and movies on a streaming service instead.

All of these feed the part of my brain that wants story, too.

I'm finding that I go through phases where I'm not reading much at all, where I seem to grow persnickety and hard to please and start books only to abandon them, wandering off in a moment of inattention. It's not necessarily that there's anything wrong with those books, either. It's more about where I am in my brain at the time. I do think that loving a book is partly an accident of timing: finding that book at the right time for you to read it.

I hate those times, though. I feel nearly as broken when I can't read as I do when I can't write.

So, I'm delighted to be going through a book devouring phase right now.

I set a yearly goal of 52 books, one per week. A lot of years that's almost too much, especially if I choose any lengthy or challenging books.

But this year, I'm already 8 books ahead.

Part of that is because I've been choosing some shorter, lighter works here lately, craving my escape in a big way. The pressures of the end of the school year and getting my house and heart ready to face my daughter's graduation from high school are intense.

Losing myself in imaginary lives and imaginary problems is my kind of self-medication for high stress times.

Some highlights of my 2018 reading so far (click links to see my full reviews on Goodreads):

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey: a tour du force when it comes to voice and pacing. I was intrigued by Melanie from the get-go. Carey meted out strange details at just the right times to keep me from ever getting bored as I figured out the world the story was taking place in.

True Grit by Charles Portis: another fantastic example of what a unique character voice can do for a story. Mattie Ross is one of a kind, for sure. A fiercely independent and determined person with a black and white personal morality that is her north star.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. A traditional gothic ghost story in a lot of ways, but turned on its ear by having the victim of the ghost be a young Englishman instead of a wide-eyes young female ingenue.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. A brutal and beautiful story of a serial killers, his victims, and the police officer who is on his trail.

Hmmmm . . . .looks like voice is key to getting in to my reading good graces this year. All four of those books are amazing character-driven pieces with unusual voices.

Really, I've had great luck with my reading choices this year. Hardly a dud among them. How about you? Read anything good lately? Anything that *really* grabbed and held you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.