From a fan of “The Rugrats”

When I was a little girl, whenever my parents mentioned their ancestors (they were heavy into genealogy at the time), I thought they were saying “Anne Sisters”.  I also thought that the ATM was a never-ending supply of money.  I thought parents wanted to work because they wanted to, because it was part of being a grown-up, and all grown-up things were fun.

Now that I’m a grown-up, I see how true-to-life (well, besides the babies really talking) Nickelodeon’s “The Rugrats” were.  It’s been said that there’s no reality, only perception.  (I disagree, but one’s perception is their reality at the time.)  When you’re a kid, you think your parents make all the rules, but most simply just live by the rules.  Though it’s not always fun being a grown-up, I’d never go back to being a child (though it would be nice to visit and it was easier to go to sleep).  I love knowing what I know, being able to do what I do.  It’s really pretty great.

I wrote the following “nursery rhyme/children’s poem” with sort of these things in mind.

The Circus at First Baptist

Tucker Clancy got all fancy,
dandied up in a monkey suit,
with a banana in his pocket,
and a packet of peanuts in his boots.

“We’re going to a circus,” his dad said, slapping him on the back,
and Tucker ran to get the tickets,
all printed on white paper with silver letters,
Mom in a frazzle, saying they only had two minutes.

“Bring both rings,” she said,
and Tucker asked, “A two ring circus?”,
but Mom was buzzing around and pinning a flower to her lapel,
muttering something about wedding warning bells.

His dad picked his own pocket,
looking quite glad,
his mom looking quite mad,
and they were on their way to the great show,
ready to see the jugglers throw.

The show was not under a big top,
but in the church across the street,
and Mom said, “Look, there’s Aunt Elsie,”
and Dad said, “The elephant in the room has come, I see.”

Tucker looked, but only saw people all gussied up,
and long white tablecloths with food spread in rows,
not a funnel cake or a corndog to be seen,
or a clown with a rainbow Afro and a big red nose.

“There’s the groom, he’s such a clown,” he heard someone say,
and Tucker looked to see,
but all he saw was a woman in white,
and nearby, a lady commenting it was a tent too tight.

“There’s Mr. Lyon,” someone said,
and Tucker went to sit down with a frown,
having seen neither mane nor tail,
thinking his parents were seeing things,
and wondering where were the monkeys with their long tails.

“Just another dog and pony show,” his dad said,
and Tucker thought his parents had went to the wrong place,
but just as he turned to the tables,
he saw a man take the big cake,
and smash it in a lady’s face.

What I Learned Last Writers’ Meeting (from an honest-to-God publisher of books)

So I belong to a local writer’s group called WriteOn! Pensacola.  Last week was the first time we had a guest speaker (Dan Vega, from Indigo Publishing).  I not only had a blast, but I learned a ton about what publishers are looking for (this one in particular).  I learned that I am totally okay with forfeiting my rights–I still win.  I get my book published, make money, a movie based on it is made, generating more book sales, and I make even more.  However, if it is a bestseller, then it’ll be the one and only time I’ll do that.

I learned that this is a lady to check out:  http://peggymccoll.com/, and you must be involved on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter).  I consider this blog a bonus.

Some tips for submitting to a publisher:

Figure out your target age range within a 15 year mark (such as age 35 to 50 years old). Is it more male than female? Go as narrow as possible at first. (Really.)

Find out why people should read your book, so you know how to market it later.

How is a person different after reading your book? (You have to have a “vision” for your book.  This was really hard.  The only vision I’d had before was that it’d become a bestseller.)

Readers today want shorter books (we have 12 seconds–the attention span of a goldfish–to hook a reader).  Books between 125 and 175 pages Paperback, 8.5×11 Or 6×9 in size are recommended.

Self-help books, biographies, business books are easier to market than novels.  Cookbooks and children’s books are a bit harder to sell because of more time and less profit margin involved.

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So, I attached my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley”, to an e-mail to Mr. Vega and his staff at Indigo River Publishing, with these notes:

Genre:  Southern Gothic Horror

Word count:  220,000 (Book is naturally divided into three parts, so I would be willing to publish it as a series).

Audience:  Female, between the ages of 20-35; those who enjoyed “Flowers in the Attic” and “Peyton Place” would like “Because of Mindy Wiley”; also, former Mormons.

Vision:  To provide pure escapism while bringing awareness to how rigidly aligning with any religion can improve or diminish one’s life or the lives of others around them.

Online presences in which to promote book:

  1. Facebook account
  2. LinkedIn account
  3. sarahleastories.wordpress.com
  4. twitter.com/SarahLeaSales

The end.

Of course, I always think of something I should have included after I’ve hit send.  Though my book is primarily a Southern Gothic horror, there is also a light touch of magical realism (think Alice Hoffman) to it.

Submission for Birkenstock scholarship

So I found this scholarship opportunity on Chegg, “Write about the best shoes you have ever had or your grandmother’s beautiful toes. Just be interesting or educate us in 400-1000 words”, and this is what I came up with:

The Red Slip-Ons:  A 5-Minute Memoir 

I’m a flip-flop and bikini top kind of woman (meaning I don’t do bras or high heels).  I’m five four with a size ten foot.  I’d been a size nine till I had my daughter Hannah.  Now I can’t wear my shoes or my clothes.

Every woman has a favorite pair of shoes.  Big feet don’t make you cry in the dressing room.  No woman ever asks, “Do these shoes make my feet look fat?”  However, I won’t wear those with pointed-toes—they seem like corsets for feet.

It was a day that Target was having a clearance sale.  It was the end of summer, and their flip-flops were all half-off.  A ruby-red pair with red sequins had caught my eye.  A combination of retail therapy and Starbucks caffeine had made me heady, and I wondered if they’d put something special in my brownie.

It was starting to sprinkle outside and the smoky violet sky made me think of Liz Taylor’s eyes.  I’d tossed my crappy flip-flappies into the receptacle out front (near the big red balls some teenage girls were bouncing on) and worn these out.  They matched my retro red toenail polish.

I went to the car and rolled down the window, letting my feet dangle over the side, the cool breeze blowing through my toes.  The new shoes felt great.  Now I just needed a pedi.  That was the problem with open-toed shoes, they required foot care.  No mangled pinky toenails or hairy halluces.  I must have spaced out for a minute, for the next, there were a couple of guys passing by, chatting about Emerald City, rather animatedly.  I called out, unable to help myself, “Are you going to see the Wizard?”  They looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said, “Lady, you’re in the land of Oz.”

They walked off, laughing.  When my husband came out with our daughter and a bag of Moose Munch, I told him of the exchange, and he laughed.

“Oh, that’s a gay bar downtown,” he said, and I shook my head.  “They have great drag shows.”

I looked over at Pensacola’s self-proclaimed Moses on one corner, holding up an Israeli flag, and then over at some creepy ass cracker on the other, holding up a cardboard sign saying, “Cracker needs help”. Only in Lower Alabama (or L.A., as the locals call it), I think.

“You know something, Brian, there are times when I think we really are in the Land of Oz”

10 Elements I Don’t Like in Popular Novels

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  1. When the story starts off in the wrong place, as in LaVyrle Spencer’s, “Bittersweet”.  The catalyst for the heroine returning home to her “real” friends from high school (apparently, she didn’t make any real friends after high school) was the death of her husband.  We read about her support group, and then never hear from them again.  The book should have started with her leaving her old life behind.
  2. When the book is really two, interweaving stories.  One story is always going to be more interesting.  This was done in Francine Rivers’, “The Scarlet Thread”.  Sierra Madrid (yes, that’s really the name of the main character) is the heroine of the modern day story, and her grandmother (whose name I cannot remember, as hers was the story that didn’t interest me), the heroine of the “backstory”.
  3. Too many characters.  It’s why I didn’t finish the “Left Behind” series.  Mental overload.
  4. Slutty men.  Okay, this is popular in mainstream romance.  I don’t see why a romance has to be a “Christian romance” for the man not to have slept around.  A man who doesn’t sleep around can be attractive, too (and it’s not totally unrealistic.  I’m not saying he has to be a virgin.)  Lisa Jackson apparently doesn’t think so.
  5. Female protagonist, if she’s going through a stressful time, she always under eats, never the other way around.  I guess the author has an impossible time of conceiving a man being attracted to an overweight woman.  (It does happen.)
  6. When all your main characters sound alike.  Even though I enjoy Mary Higgins Clark, all her women come across as bland (they all seem to like linguini with clam sauce, too).  None of them have any memorable quirks or say anything witty.  However, I read her because I like her plots.
  7. When the author is in love with a hobby, and talks about it in minute detail.  Barbara Delinsky obviously loves knitting, and she mentions it in her books, but she doesn’t overdo it.  The one time I remember my eyes glazing over was when I read “The Bridges of Madison County”–the photography jargon bored me.
  8. Too many references to pop culture.  Jodi Picoult is bad about this.
  9. Too many complicated names.  Rachel Ann Nunes (an LDS author) tends to use a lot of unusual names in her novels.  One or two is fine, but any more than that is distracting.
  10. Poetry in novels.  If one of the characters is a poet, it makes sense to include something they wrote, but sometimes, it just seems like the author couldn’t find a market for the poem, and wanted to use it, so he/she stuck it in there.  Tami Hoag did this in one of her books; the poetess was supposed to be gifted (she wasn’t, in my humble opinion), and her work just sounded like a moody teenager’s stream of consciousness put on paper.

First entry for the Merry Month of May: Musings on Motherhood

I’ve decided to focus on positivity this month, though I won’t be posting every day like I did last.  I remember reading somewhere that every blogger should seek to post at least twice a week, and that is my goal.  The first things that come to mind when I think of the word “positive” is Pollyanna and her father’s “happy texts”, Zig Ziglar, and glasses that are half-full.  I can’t say my posts will be about any of those exactly, but they will be about good things.

In preparing to pitch my writing for “Woman’s Day”, I was inspired to write this.

Twenty-Five Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mom

1. I have learned patience, because I had to teach it to myself, or else go crazy.  Sometimes, instead of praying that God will make her easier to deal with at a particular moment, I pray that He will help me better handle the situation.  Babies cry, and it’s okay if you need to give yourself a “time-out” sometimes.

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2. “Baby brain” does not go away.  Unless my child is asleep, I have never been able to focus on something like I did before.  That’s part of being a mom.

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3. I don’t always sleep when the baby sleeps.  That’s when I get things done.  My house is cleaner than it’s ever been, because once they start crawling, they will find every microscopic piece of dirt and put it in their mouth.  And if that’s all it is, don’t fret over it.

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4. I find myself looking for clues, a hint, at what my daughter may become.  We see her turning over her xylophone, spinning the wheels, trying to figure them out, and we think, “She’s going to be an engineer.”  When she inspects Brian’s teeth, it’s, “She’s going to be a dentist.”  We will nurture her talents as we nurture her (especially if it means she’ll make enough to take care of us in our old age).

~
5. Though I am a creative individual, I found I’ve developed a more playful imagination.  There is a certain sort of magic about childhood that’s precious.  My daughter likes to lift up an edge of the area rug on our tile floor and I pretend there’s another world under there (like the other little girl in the mirror).  Children are filled with wonder and curiosity.  Nurture that as well.

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6. Sitting on the floor and playing with my child is quite cathartic and relaxing after a long day at work or a heavy study session.  It refreshes me and helps me focus even better when I have to return to adult matters.

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7. I now have a reason for swinging on the swings at the park.  (I have to show her how, after all.)  I’ve been sillier than I’ve ever been in my life.  Blowing bubbles is fun, and jumping on the trampoline will be fun–all over again.  One of my favorite things to do when I was little was to line up all my dolls and stuffed animals and yell at them (I guess that’s what I thought being an adult was all about).  I find that I am living a second childhood (not reliving), and that is not a bad thing.

~
8. I’ve developed a new appreciation for Dr. Seuss.  I didn’t grow up with him (my parents preferred Mother Goose) and I always thought his illustrations were ugly.  But, a preschool teacher friend of mine was big on him, so I gave him a chance and, like “Green Eggs and Ham”, I tried him and now love him (and his drawings).  It is never too early to read to your child, and you can never have too many books.  And, if you manage to acquire some board books that aren’t in the best condition (or, if not, just go to the dollar store), let them have at them, so they can learn how to turn the pages, and just have the experience holding a book.  I read at least a novel a week, and I make sure she sees me reading.

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9. Songs hold their attention more when you use sign language.  I made up sign language for all twelve stanzas of “London Bridge is Falling Down”.

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10. My selfies have diminished and Hannah is now the darling of my camera.  My interest in photography has increased.  When buying a camera, get a good one.  It’s worth the investment.

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11. I’ve found myself wanting to learn more, for the more I know, the more I can teach her.

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12. 90% of my daughter’s time is unstructured, but 10% is learning through play (or just plain playing), the Montessori way.   I’ve learned that when kids are bored, they are forced to use their imagination.

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13. Baby talk.  I’d always said I’d never do it, but I do.  (Hey, Shakespeare made up words, too.)

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14. There is no such thing as too many paccies (or batteries).

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15. If you think you’re selfish when you’re single, that naturally diminishes when you become a mom.  As much as I want a new wardrobe, I want her to have the preschool experience more.

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16. It’s okay to not jump up and comfort them every time they fall.  Sometimes distracting them is enough to ward off a crying jag.

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17. It’s okay to let them get messy.  It’s good for sensory development to let them play with their food. (Mine loves to smash avocado all over her face and hair.)  If they’re hungry, they’ll eat it.  And putting them in the bath afterwards to play is a snap.

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18. Everything takes longer with a baby.  I have found that I’ve had to prioritize my time more.  Do I really need to see that episode of “Law and Order” again?  Children also aren’t made to be quiet and still all the time.  That’s what the DVR is for.

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19. I have received a lot of unsolicited advice about child-rearing.  None of it has been useful.

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20. It’s okay if you can’t breast-feed.  It doesn’t mean you’re lazy.  Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, no matter how much you want it to.

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21. I know I will never be able to protect my children from all “bad” foods.  There will be parties, there might even be McDonald’s.  That doesn’t mean I ever have to take her there.

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22. They’ll walk when they’re ready.  My daughter’s pediatrician, every single appointment, would mention about her being “developmentally delayed”.  My husband would bristle at the less than tactful terminology, but we’re putting her through all the tests (as much for her well-being as for our peace of mind), and at twenty months, she is walking (and isn’t stopping).

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23. I think back about my own parents and appreciate them more than I ever have in my life.  I never really knew how much my parents loved me till I had my own child.  All the pain, even the “indignity” of childbirth, the weight gain, the stretch marks, the lack of sleep, not being able to just pick up and go, the sense of being overwhelmed when you’re first alone with them, has all been worth it.

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24. I never think I’m a good enough mom, but I’ve found that if you’re trying to be, you are.

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25. Most of all, I make sure to make Hannah laugh.  A child’s smile is a light in a sometimes dark world, and their laughter is the music.

XXOO

Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #30. Theme: Bury the (blank)

Hooray!  Today was the last day of the poetry challenge, and I managed to (during finals month, at that) complete a poem every day on the day the assignment was given.  My last poem for this challenge was basically “Clue” meets “The Seven Deadly Sins”.  It’s a bit silly, but I had fun with it.

clue

Bury the Bodies

In the Lounge, Miss Scarlett clutches her Revolver,
the odor of gunshot residue following her to the Study,
only to find Professor Plum, her lusty lover,
sporting a necktie a lovely shade of hemp Rope,
his wrathful face wretched and ruddy.

Miss Peacock, her green-eyed mother,
who tried to kill her while she was eight months along,
is lying in the Library, next to a Wrench,
pieces of her brain matter decaying,
creating a monstrous stench.

Reverend Green, her uncle,
is crumpled in the corner of the Conservatory,
next to him, a Lead Pipe dripping with blood,
his pockmarked bald pate his distinguishing trait,
now surely dancing with the greedy in purgatory.

Mrs. White, her housemaid,
and her maid of dishonor,
who was lazy and fat with gluttonous sin,
is slumped over the console in the Hall,
Candlestick bent, with her head caved in.

Colonel Mustard, her second cousin,
whose pride was in big game hunting,
has a Knife broken in his chest cavity,
and is bleeding out in the Ballroom—
the epitome of depravity.

When she gazes into the mirror,
she sees all her different personalities–
the family members she murdered years ago at a party
fueled by their unfettered criminality.

She, having finally slaughtered them
with the weapon of her choice—
having heeded the voice,
runs to the Billiard Room to take her cue,
only to see that under the influence of a hot toddy,
she, with a bullet to his spine,
murdered poor Mr. Boddy.