Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spotlight on my Twitter friends-Anita Grace Howard

     Since school has started and my focus, which in the summer was all about writing, has now had to turn to all about writing lesson plans and teaching.  I made so many great Twitter friends this summer, I can't even count them all. I miss talking and 'tweeting' with them in the mornings.  That's when most of the twitter fun can be had.  Sometimes sporadically during the day as well.  One of my favorites is a member and Goat Goddess of the "Goat Posse".  Anita Grace Howard. 
     She finds the funniest pictures of Goats I have ever seen.  SO FUNNY!  She never ceases to bring a smile to my face and most of the time a full on 'Laugh out Loud' with her wit.  Her kindness goes beyond measure.  Even though I'm not on when the rest of the 'Goat Posse' is on, she or one of my other faithful buddies, includes me in the tweeting fun and I can go back after school and read what craziness went on for the day.

Besides the fact that she's such a great person, she also has a great blog.  She blogs at A Still and Quiet Madness, which there is a link for on my blog.  She has bestowed on me the honor of the "Leibster Award" for up and coming blogs.  I am truly grateful that there are not one, but two great bloggers that think I'm worthy for this award:  Dean C. Rich, and now Anita!  I thank you, Anita, Goat Goddess extraordinaire for my blog award.

Anita's book, Splintered, has also been picked up and will be published in spring of 2013.  She's living the dream!  I'm so proud of her accomplishments because she is a crazy-talented writer that has worked on this for 7 years.  She always encourages me and she's inspired me to keep going.  I figure it'll take me 10 years, but that's ok.  It will happen for me.  I just can't give up.

As long as I have my "Goat posse" to fall back on and lift me up when I feel like I want to quit, I know I'll make it some day.  So I wanted to give her a special shout-out, since she's such an all around great person to know.
She tweets at @aghowardwrites .  Go and follow her.  Great things are about to happen with her and you can say, "I follow her on twitter.  What a great lady." 

Friday, August 19, 2011

What a week...

I'm tired.  This is my 22nd year of teaching.  We've gotten all of our Kindergarteners in school now.  Today was the first day we had EVERYBODY.  It's always an adjustment for the kids, the teachers and the parents.  I teach all the grades since I teach music, but we have to teach them rules of our classroom and how to follow them like their classroom teachers do.  It definitely takes a village in an elementary school to teach these kiddos.

Even though Kindergarteners are hard the first few weeks of school, I love them.  When I say 'hard', I mean...there are some tears, some want to run away, some are just mean as snakes because they haven't been taught not to be ..that kind of stuff.  But after a few weeks, they start to figure things out.  What I love the most is how innocent they are and how they are like little sponges ready to learn everything.  I have another music teacher friend who said once, "You can ask a Kindergartener any question and they always know the answer."  That is so true.  They crack me up with some of the things they say. 

Stuff like, "My mom has amonia'.  Or "She kick-ted me"...I speak fluent Kindergartener if you haven't noticed.  Sometimes I feel like I'm a translator for my younger partner teacher, which I think is hilarious.  She hasn't been teaching as long and hasn't had any kids of her own yet.  Can't wait til she has some. :)

The only downside to teaching Kindergarteners is they wear me out.  Your energy level teaching any grade has to be high, but teaching Kindergarten and first grade has to be EVEN HIGHER.  We move A LOT when they come to my room.  Sometimes so much that they say. "I'm tired."  But I appreciate them and love seeing the wonder of the world around them through their eyes.  I love teaching them because I know I'm the first music teacher they will ever have.  Makes me feel special.  I really love how they believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and how ridiculously excited they get in October because Halloween is coming up.  I've seen kids whole classrooms of kids 'vibrating' with excitement the day before a big holiday.  It's so funny to watch.  It used to freak me out because I'd try to fight it and keep them under a tight rein, when I should've been seeing their excitement and understanding what was going on.  That was when I was young though.  I've figured it out now.

But, boy am I tired....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Blog Awards

Now, I've finally found some time to award 3 more deserving peeps two blog awards.  I love giving awards.  I present awards on 'Awards Day' at school because all of the 'co-curricular' teachers as the administration calls us, know all of them.  So we can pronounce everyone's name for the most part.

So, onto the Award bestowing!

I give the Blog on Fire and Leibster Blog Award not only to @Riley Redgate, and @JLeaLopez (thier twitter aliases), but also to:

Robert K. Lewis at Needle City.  If you're looking for crime/suspense or noir, Robert is your man.  He also has an affinity for red wine and Brandy Beans.  Before the year is out, he will become more familiar with a southern delicacy known as the 'Goo-Goo Cluster', since being a non-southerner, he had no idea what one was.  I'm all about educating people, especially anyone who has never experienced the sugar-induced coma of a Goo Goo.  Robert also tweets @robertklewis.

I also want to give these two awards to a blog that's actually several completely awesome writer/mentor/friends, who I respect.  I listen to EVERYTHING they say because they are just that smart.  Their blog From the Write Angle always has great information for writers regardless of where they are in their writing journey.  They tweet @WriteAngleBlog.  If you don't subscribe to this blog and you're a writer, you need to.  Go there now.  Follow them on Twitter.  Learn much.

I also want to give these two prestigious blog awards to Dawn G. Sparrow at  Write Away.  She's just beginning to stretch her 'writerly' wings in public, which is a H-U-G-E step.  She's got the support of the #goatposse behind her, so there's no way she can fail.  Love ya' Dawn! :)  She also tweets @DawnGSparrow  Follow her and all the rest of my award winning peeps!  You can't go wrong with this crew.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blog Awards!

Two of my bloggerly and Twitter friends have graced me with TWO Awards...I'm not worthy, people, but thank you just the same!
The first award, the Leibster Blog Award has been bestowed on me by not only, Dean C. Rich, but also by A.M. Supinger.  I appreciate the Blog love!  Now I need to spread the Leibster Blog love to 5 people.  AM also bestowed onto me the 'Blog on Fire' award.  Very happy about this one too, although, like her, I don't want to have to jump through an firey hoops.  Although, when I was a freshman in high school, I was in charge of the fire batons for our
So I, like AM, will bestow TWO blog awards to up and coming blogs of people I know or are beginning to know. ;)

Riley Redgate-What can I say about this talented kid?  She is made of awesome.  At only 17, her talent just oozes out of her.  She can write a short story, write a song, play the piano and sing...(I'm a singer, so I have a soft spot for that one) and she's just an all around great person.  I feel sure at some point on or before she gets her college double major in rocket science and Piano performance, she'll have an agent and a novel published.  If she wants too anyway..:)

JLeaLopez at Jello World- 
                   She has a great sense of humor and puts a little spice in her writing.  She also dons her whip and corset when she moderates over at Agent Query Connect during Thursday night chats.  We have to have somebody keeping us in line!  :)

I have more awards to bestow, but right now, the clock is saying, 'Get in the shower or you'll be LATE!
So I'll post more blog awards when I have the chance. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writer Cherie Strikes Again!

I know writers have some of the same fears, fear of not being good enough...well...that's the main one.  Fear of overexposure is not something all of us 'undiscovereds' have to worry about..except maybe my writer buddy, Cherie.  Her talent abounds all over the web lately.  I guested on her blog, but got the dates wrong, so I didn't post her post at the same time.  That and the fact that I was still in utter shock that I would write a short story and put it out there for just anybody to read.  Since I've recovered from my shock, I needed to return the favor and post what she sent me.  Since she was on A.M.Supinger's blog Inner Owlet on Monday, I decided to wait until to today.  Cherie has the coolest blog and always finds ways to tie in anything to writing.  You can check her blog out at Ready.Write Go and on twitter at @writercherie.

I didn't give Cherie any guidelines or a picture to write from, so she had free reign to write what she wanted.  In my opinion, I think her reign is just beginning. :)  And now, here's Cherie.

First off, thanks Suzanne (a.k.a. Hottie) for having me guest post on your blog. Suzanne is such a sweetheart (how’s that for alliteration!) and I’ve really enjoyed her friendship. Now, she didn’t give me a topic because she is nice like that, so I pretty much have free reign over this babbling post. Good for me, not so much for you, dear readers. But please bear with me as I try to come up with something remotely coherent.
If you’re here, you’re most likely a writer, a reader, a blogger, or all of the above. Either way, we all have something in common: WORDS.  We write them, read them, blog about them, and occasionally eat them—figuratively, of course. Words let us explore our emotions, trigger our imaginations, and are conduits for our own brand of personal expression.
I write. I write because like Rapunzel from Tangled, “I have a dream” (cue music). But I also write because, as glamorous a published author’s life is like (I wouldn’t know, but let’s pretend it is), I have stories to tell. Now, everyone has a story to tell—just ask Uncle Bill on the next family reunion—but as writers we have this tendency to develop an intense emotional attachment to our plot/characters/scenes/whathaveyou. You can concur with this, right? Good. I am, however, going further to say that I write because I enjoy words.
Am I seeing blank stares here? I hope not.
Let me ask this question: Have you ever tried to read your novel, story, or poem out loud? Have you ever paid attention to the way words are strung together in harmony? It’s like music, a song. When I write, I take into account the inflections and tones in a sentence. If I like how it sounds, I keep it.
Of course this is not true ALL the time. Sometimes, there will be perfectly constructed sentences that are plain and nonmusical, and I would still keep them. It’s just the way life is—what was that saying? You can’t keep your cake and eat it too? Truth be told, I don’t understand this phrase. Why have cake in the first place if you’re not allowed to eat it? What are cakes for, anyway?
I digress.
The thing is, words are beautiful. Do me a favor—the next time you’re stumped with your WIP, find a poem. Look at it, read it, then read it out loud. Listen. See the music in words and maybe, just maybe, it’ll inspire you to take your writing to a new, deeper level.

Writer Cherie is a mom, a writer, a twitterer, and a great friend.  She's also the originator of the goat posse and all of it's madness. :) 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

First Sunday Short Fiction

Once again, my twtter/writer-friend, Michelle Simkins, has urged me to participate in another writer activity.  It's not actually a contest, but it will (hopefully) motivate me to write a short story a month.  This summer, I pumped out three new short stories, which I thought was pretty good for a first time girl.  The thing is, I had time to think about them and got the first draft written in a few hours and then tweaked from there.  Now reality has struck and school along with our new evaluation process, has started, so if this week is any indication of how my school year will be, I won't be writing anything except standards and lesson plans.  I thought I'd post my other two stories that I wrote for the next two months and just go from there.  They haven't been gone over with a fine tooth comb like the first one was, so if you see mistakes in them, I apologize.  I haven't had time to really edit them down like they needed, but I liked the stories well enough that I thought they would be ok.  You can click on her name and go to her blog for all my other great writer friends' stories.

So here is my first contribution to "First Sunday Short Fiction".  This is my short story from Michelle's contest.  We wrote from a picture she called, The Stone House. 

The Stone House
By:  Suzanne Payne

     On my first trip to Scotland, I wanted to see castles and be transported back to the land of my ancestors.  The tour bus I traveled in was forced to stop due to a flat tire.  The tour guide, a small-framed blonde named Kenna told us we were free to roam around as long as we were back within the a few hours.    
     Most of the tourists stayed close to the bus, but being drawn out by the clear air and blue sky, I decided to head down the road alone and snap some pictures.  Since the sky was unusually blue dotted with white puffy clouds, I couldn’t resist.  My digital Canon and I ventured away from the group and I fought the urge to sing ‘Zippety-Do-Da’ out loud.  It was glorious to stretch and move my cramped body kicking pebbles as I walked like I did as a child. 
     I huffed and puffed walking up a hill noting I really needed to start exercising when I returned from my overseas venture.  The view from the top of the hill was gorgeous with green slopes and small white dots scattered across them.  Looking through my larger zoom lens, I could see the white cattle grazing in the distance.  I rotated around using my zoom like a set of binoculars.  A little way into the forest on the other side of the road a set of stone steps caught my eye.  When I took the camera from my eye and sought what the steps were attached to, I found parts of a stone house nestled among green shady trees.  Not quite a castle, but still interesting enough.  I decided to walk to the stone house and explore it.  It wasn’t that far away.  I thought I could poke around and take some pictures without worrying about being abandoned in the Scottish countryside.
     As I walked closer through the trees between the stone house and myself, the wind began to pick up.  The cool breeze felt wonderful energizing me forward rattling the leaves above me.  This forest felt like walking around in Tennessee and I smiled at the thought.  I stopped halfway there to try and fit the whole house in my camera’s view.  I snapped the picture and immediately checked it on the screen to confirm its quality.  Sun spots were shining through the leaves keeping me from seeing the picture as well as I wanted, so I shaded the screen for a better look.
     My stomach twisted a little when my eyes registered a man standing at the top of the steps.  A man with dark hair and a long, tall body wasn’t there before I took the picture and he wasn’t there now.  In the picture, he wore a white collared shirt and blue jeans.  Knowing the phrase curiosity killed the cat, and ignoring it, I decided to move closer to see if he was still there.  He was cute, but being there one minute and gone the next was a little odd.  The idea of something supernatural going on wasn’t entirely out of the question, since Scotland’s folklore was filled with tales of fae folk.
     The only sound was the rustle of my feet through the forest floor until I heard a man’s voice exclaim, “Stop!” Without question, I automatically froze looking around for the source of the voice.  I wondered if there was a gun pointed at me like in the old westerns when someone trespassed on someone else’s property.  I hoped not. 
     “I just wanted to take some pictures,” I spoke louder thinking the man was inside the house even though his voice registered right next to me.  The house had walls, but no roof.  “I think it’s a beautiful spot.  Is it ok with you?”  I hoped compliments would help me gain access, but I was becoming a little discouraged. 
     “Aye, it is a grand spot,” the voice spoke low caressing me with his Scots accent.  A dark-haired man appeared at the top of the stone steps studying me.  He appeared to be the same age as me.  “Alright, come on then,” he waved me toward him smiling and disappeared again through the arched door.  Why was he smiling?  I stopped and took a picture of the mossy stone steps before I ventured upward.  The wind picked up again faster causing the leaves to hum catching my attention.  This was the first time I second-guessed my decision to venture through the unfamiliar wood, but his smile drew me in.  It was a shy, flirty smile and it was working me over.  Deciding not to be spooked by humming leaves, my hand floated up the mossy stone-pillared hand rail feeling soft and squishy.
     I stood at the landing where I’d seen the man glancing around to see where he’d gone.  Looking through the arch, I saw him sitting on what looked like a stone hearth.  The lack of a roof allowed the sun to dapple the stone floor from between the forest’s trees.  “Come on, lass,” he called encouraging me.  I wondered if I should trust him.  I felt drawn to him for some reason.
     “This your house?” I asked hoping to start a conversation to keep me sane. 
     “It is.  Been in my fam’ly for generations,” his smile was easy as he leaned against the gray stone fireplace of the empty former room.  “I’m Robert MacKay.”
     I repeated the name in my head.  The name felt familiar, but being a teacher, I’d met thousands of people throughout my life.  “Robert MacKay,” I said his name aloud and his expression blossomed into a full blown smile.  He seemed like he was trying not to smile so wide, but couldn’t help it.  He looked as if he might actually start laughing.
     “What’s so funny?”
     “Nothin’ at all.  Hearin’ yeh say my name,” he paused, “It’s like music, Ellie.” His smile grew and he stood up walking toward me. 
     “How do you know my name?” I glanced down wondering if I was wearing something with my name on it, but knew I wasn’t.  My mouth went dry with fear.  What was it about this guy?  His eyes looked so familiar.  When he said my name there was so much love there.  How could that be?
     “You’re the spittin’ image of my wife… Ellie.  She died forty years ago.”  He stood and stepped closer to me.  For some reason my chest tightened.  He didn’t look as old as he should be.  This didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t tell if it was my nerves or my instincts telling me to run. “I’ve been ‘ere for years.  Waitin’ on ‘er to come back…waitin’ for you.” He took another step toward me, but I backed away, not sure why.  He looked so genuine, but he was talking a little too crazy for me.
     “I know yeh don’t remember me.  They said yeh wouldn’t at first, but if yeh allow me to just …touch you, then yeh’ll remember.” He sounded desperate. 
     “Who are ‘they’ and what will I remember?” Why was I not running away from this guy?  Why did I want to hear what he had to say?  I might be as crazy as he is.
     “The fae folk—fairies.  When yeh died, they wouldn’t bring you back to life like I asked, but they promised yeh’d come back to me if I gave them my land.  It was fields for growin’, but when they took it, the forest took over.  Ev’ryone thought I was crazy for givin’ up my land.  I had to work other places and move around because I wasn’t agin’ and everyone around me was.  They gave me enough extra years to wait for yeh.  They promised if I waited, I’d be the same age as you when yeh returned.”  His eyes grew softer and his smile more familiar.  Stretching his arm toward me offering his hand, I stared at it unsure and afraid.  If I took it, what would happen? “Please?” He asked so humble, almost begging.   
     What was stopping me?  I’d been single my whole life.  Forty years of being an aunt to my sibling’s and friend’s children, but I liked my life…I thought.  “Touch my hand,” he still held it in front of me.  Take a chance.  Why not?  I took a deep breath and our fingertips touched.  A memory of kissing him shot through me.  I gasped and drew my hand away for a moment shocked at what I’d seen.  “What did ya’ see?” He asked panic-stricken.  When I didn’t answer, he grabbed my hand tighter lacing our fingers together.  His reaction almost made me think he was trying to hold on to me to keep me from disappearing.  Another memory of us standing in this spot me kissing him surrounded by a roof and a warm fire blazing flashed again.  “Ellie! What is it?” his voice spoke anxious to know what was happening.  I could’ve sworn I saw a gold ring on my finger sliding through his dark hair.
     “We were married?”
     “For about a year,” he seemed to be relieved.  A tear slid down his cheek and he clutched his long fingers between mine.
     “This was our house?”
     “It was,” he looked at me with an overwhelming burst of happiness.  “Oh, God, yeh really remember!” I felt my feet leave the stone floor as he picked me up and twirled me around.
     Before I could say anything else, he was pulling me to him wrapping me in his warm embrace.  His lips were soft and hungry.  My brain told me to fight him, but I found myself pulling him closer to me, wanting him as close as I could stand.  He wasn’t a stranger.  This was Rob.  He was the man my heart could never find.  He was the reason no other man could make me happy.  Relief washed over both of us and we sighed deepening our link.
     “Your love brought you together again,” a high sweet voice spoke all around us.  Our lips broke apart smiling at each other and then we looked around trying to find the source of the voice.  “It pleases the fae when lost love is returned.”  I wasn’t sure what to think now.  Here I was holding my former husband from my previous life in my arms and standing in the ruins of what was once our house.  In an instant, our stone cottage reformed into a glorious modern stone mansion.  “Robert MacKay, your patience and steadfastness will be rewarded.”
     “Is this really happening?” I asked him still not sure of any of it.
    “Yes.  You’re here.  You’re really here,” his words and arms wrapped me in gratitude.  “We ‘ave a lot o’ catchin’ up to do,” he spoke in my ear through a wide smile and covered me with kisses.  He picked me up to reach his six-two frame kissing me again.  I wanted his lips always.  I couldn’t kiss him enough.
     “Ellie MacKay, welcome home,” the high sweet voice spoke again. 
     “It’s like yeh’ve been on a long trip, and now yeh’re home,” Rob gushed.  “Yeh’re finally home.” 
     “How do I explain this to my family?”  Ellie wondered.  A small blonde girl appeared in their living room in a shimmering silver gown.
     “Not necessary,” her voice’s timbre was like a piccolo.  “I took care of everything.  Your former life no longer exists.  From now on, you will be Ellie MacKay, wife of Robert MacKay and you will live out your life here.”
     “What about my parents and my friends?” Ellie’s heart saddened.
    “Souls congregate to each other.  They will be a part of your life here.  They’re lives and names will be different, but one by one, they’ll show themselves to you.  I’ll be off now.”
     “Wait—you’re Kenna, my tour guide!” Ellie’s jaw dropped.  Kenna shrugged, winked and disappeared. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer of Bloggerly Love-Blog swap

When I tell people about all my new friends I talk to on Twitter and they ask me how I met them, it's kind of hard to explain.  All I can say is I have found a bunch of crazy, wonderful writer/people that are my friends and I feel so lucky to have met them.  I'd like to introduce you to Michelle Simpkins.  She blogs over at Greenwoman and is responsible for helping me discover that I can write short stories.  Her short story blog contest was the first writing contest and the first short story I ever entered and wrote.  So I'll always hold her in high regard even though I jokingly tell people she bullied me into doing it. She, in her infinite wisdom, is doing a 'blog swap'.  She is guesting on mine and I'm on hers today.  So after you read her post you can go to her blog and read what I wrote about love.  So without further adieu, take it away Michelle!

When I packed up all our camping gear last Friday for a trip to Saddle Mountain, I fully expected to return and write an inspiring post about how much I love the woods, how inspiring nature is, how great it is to step away from the world of machines and busyness and idle away the days in a verdant paradise.
Um, yeah.
That is not the post you are going to read. There were factors I did not consider when envisioning my sylvan escape. Such as:
Stomach viruses. The hubster came down with some kind of stomach bug before we left. I tried to talk him in to cancelling, but he didn't want to disappoint the kids. This meant he wasn't very much help in the whole loading and unloading process. Saturday my stepson came down with the same bug. So while we were packing, he was laying in the truck moaning. When he wasn't in the bathroom. Hey, at least our campground had flush toilets. That was an unexpected bonus.
Other campers. Specifically, other campers with several cases of Coors Light and unhappy marriages. Instead of being serenaded by tree frogs and night birds, I fell asleep (or tried to fall asleep) to the chorus of five drunk men complaining about their wives and/or girlfriends.
Car stereos. I was not aware that the purpose of state campgrounds was to provide men with the opportunity to sit up until 2 a.m. in their CAR, blasting music with lots of bass. I guess the U.S. Department of They forgot to send me the memo.
Unhappy infants. Someone decided to bring their baby camping. I'm pretty sure the baby was sick, if the amount of wailing and screaming it did in the middle of the night was any indication. I felt sorry for the baby, though. Poor little thing. Or maybe it wasn't sick. Maybe it was just upset about all the bass thumping and wife dissing.
Oh yeah we live in a rainforest. Sunday morning just before dawn it started raining. It POURED on us the entire time we were eating breakfast and packing up our gear. We had to set up all our tents and spread out all our tarps to dry after we got home.
So this is not a post about how I love camping.
And yet.
I'm still kind of glad we went and endured the torment, for two reasons.
One, it was SO AMAZING to come home. A hot shower and the glorious luxury of an actual bed! My kitchen! The blissful absence of noisy strangers! God I love being home. It is worth going away to be reminded of how good home can be.
Two, the time away, the aggravation, the stress, and the chance to see new things did revitalize my editing process. I was starting to drag a little bit, feeling stuck on some minor points in my plot.
But I don't think it was the misery that did it. I think it was the jolt, the change of perspective--and the pleasure of returning to the thing I love best after a few days away. The pleasure of reunion was intensified and sweetened by the contrast with the misery . . . but the misery itself probably wasn't necessary.
At least that's what I'm telling myself. Because while the side affects might have made the misery worthwhile, I don't plan to go camping again any time soon.

Michelle Simkins is a crazy talented writer working on her first novel.  You can find all of her creative contests and musings on her blog at Greenwoman and she tweets about writing, goats and everything else @Michellesimkins.