You Won!

It’s “big announcement” day, but first of all I have to thank Kris Yankee for gracing my blog with her presence last week.

As promised (ta da…big announcement!), Kris is giving away a copy of her book, Saving Redwind. And the winner is…Janet Johnson.

Janet, Kris will email you to work out the details. You’re going to love her book.  Congratulations on your winning comment!

On a somber note, wildfires are destroying my part of Texas. The nearest fires are about an hour away, but with wildfire that can be much too close. Several lives have been lost.  In the past 48 hours nearly 700 homes have been destroyed. Some of the fires that erupted over the weekend are in populated suburbs of Austin. Despite the best efforts of firefighters from all over the state, many of the fires are still uncontained. Schools in the affected areas have been closed so that they can serve as shelters for people recently made homeless. It is a horrible situation.

If you hear someone from Texas saying that we need a good hurricane, we aren’t joking. If we could just get a hurricane’s torrential rains dumped onto Central Texas, it would be such a relief. If the hurricane winds could just skip over the Gulf Coast, it would be even better.  We have friends with “lakefront” property whose boat docks are now hundreds of feet from the water. Yes, the lakes are that low. There are reservoir lakes west of us that are completely empty. You can walk across the lakebed and never get your feet wet. It is a dire situation, and one that will be continuing for some time to come. There is no rain in the forecast (again) for the next 10 days.

I could go on about the dreadful drought conditions and the devastating fires, but I think you get the picture. If you believe in appealing to a Higher Power, Texas could use some prayer right now.


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Interview with Kris Yankee

Hooray!  Today’s the day that Kris Yankee’s on my blog.  So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…award-winning author, Kris Yankee!!

First, I want to thank Laynie for having me on her blog.  She’s awfully nice to let me take over for the day and tell you about myself and my story, Saving Redwind.  She wants to grill me-ah…ask me a few questions, so here goes…

Kris, if there was one thing you could do differently in your writing career, what would it be?

I would’ve started sooner!  It took me a very long time to realize that writing was what I wanted to do.  Which is odd because I loved reading and language ever since I was a small child.  I think what held me back was that I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my writing.

Between Amazon, CreateSpace, and SmashWords, which (in your opinion) is easier to use?  Which is more successful for you?

All three involve formatting of the text, and of course, none of the formatting is really the same.  I’m not sure one was easier over another.  All of them were a pain!  I seem to be doing better with Amazon and CreateSpace.

How do you divide up the hours in a typical day?

Morning and afternoon hours are for my two days jobs, editing for a press and editor/writer for a non-profit.  The evening hours are for writing.  But I also have two kids, a husband, and two dogs. One kid plays travel hockey, so we spend a lot of time at the rink. I’ve been known to write or edit at the rink– especially if it’s a practice!

Do you manage to find “girl” time, surrounded as you are by all that testosterone?

I make sure to schedule lunches or nights out with girlfriends.  Phone calls also help — there are just some things we women need to talk about that men aren’t particularly interested in, so phone calls are essential.

Do you have any hobbies…other than writing and keeping up with the boys, that is?

I love to garden (as in flower garden), but don’t come look at mine right now!  It’s a total mess.  Too many obligations this summer let it get run over with weeds.  I love to see new
things grow and watch them come into full bloom.  I also like to power walk with the puppies, read, bike with the family, and of course, watch hockey!

Do you anticipate doing any more collaborative books or are you happy “going it alone?”

I think you’re referring to me working with a screenwriter on a screenplay and book.  I’ve discovered that working with another person can be challenging, yet very rewarding.  I love seeing the process of creating a screenplay — it’s so different than writing a book.  I think both sides have merit and I would consider any new opportunity that came my way.

Thanks for taking time out of your obviously busy schedule, Kris.  Good luck to your son’s hockey team this season.  Take full advantage of those practice-time writing sessions:   we all want to see a new Wallpaper Adventure in the near future.  Be sure to let us know.

All comments on this blog interview are welcome.  Comments will be forwarded to Kris and the best comment will receive a free copy of Kris’s book, Saving Redwind: A Wallpaper Adventure.



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Second Blog Today

So, I didn’t have time for the first blog I wrote today, but now I have time to write a second? How does that work?

This is quick. I just found out about this great online concept: building your online platform. I clicked over to Rachael Harrie’s blog and found the page to sign up.

Being the mostly cautious person that I am, I went to Rachael’s blog post to read more about the campaign.

The concept is all about networking and learning more about blogging, blogfests, and fellow bloggers. I’m not an expert at any of this, so hopefully by joining I’ll learn a lot. Even if I can just discover that there are others like me, it would be a big help!

I took the plunge! I joined. You can, too. It’s for all writers, not just children’s authors like me. Here’s the link.

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No Title

Yes, seriously, that’s the title of my blog today, because I don’t have time to be original or witty.

There are circumstances of which I must take advantage. I have the house to myself for three days! Hooray!! That means, in no particular order: no cooking, write when I like, watch all the preseason football I can possibly want, eat when I’m hungry, stay up until all hours, and read until I can’t see straight. (Oh, can’t forget to feed the cats…)

Right now I’m working on my blog interview with Kris Yankee, which will appear here on Wednesday, Aug. 31st.   All comments will be read, then Kris and I will decide on the best comment. That contributor will win a free copy of her book,  Saving Redwind: A Wallpaper Adventure.

If you want to find out more about me, I’m interviewed on her blog tomorrow, Monday, August 29th.

Gleaned a lot of useful book information from our Property Owners’ Association meeting yesterday. Seems a fairly esoteric source for a children’s book; however, Moochie Mockingbird’s next adventure involves rescuing animals from a Texas wildfire. Our POA is in the process of making the entire ranch a Firewise Community and we were receiving valuable information from the local firefighters and emergency district gurus. I love it when unexpected qualified sources show up like that!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Moochie Mockingbird series of children’s books, Moochie is a talented bird who speaks all the animal languages…except human. He travels Texas and always seems to come across someone who needs assistance. Although the stories are “tall tales,” the locations, animals, and circumstances are based in fact and I won’t change a reality for the sake of the story. Hence, having good wildfire information for the next book was a critical need. Now I’ve got it, albeit unexpectedly.

All that having been said, y’all have a great day. Pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irene. Send assistance to the Red Cross, if you have the means.

And read this blog on Wednesday to find out all about Kris Yankee!

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Exercise’s Unexpected Benefits

Today’s blog is going to be short.  I can’t waste a moment.  I’m on a roll, and I don’t want to interrupt it for too long.  That being said, here’s what’s happened,  and it’s still early!

It’s just possible that I should get up at 6-ish a.m. and exercise every day.  (Thank you, husband…)  Seems to stimulate the brain and the imagination.

After a brisk (by my definition) walk, I returned to fix coffee and an English muffin (with healthy sugar-free peanut butter).  I sat down to read my email, which is normally a tedious task comprised of culling the horrid from the merely bad.  Imagine my surprise when the first item I opened was a gem!

After five weeks of not-so-patient waiting, I received an answer from someone who had promised to help me with technical details I needed for the WIP. Now, I fully understand that one can find any answer on the all-knowing WWW; however, mine is a particularly esoteric question.  I needed to know, specifically, how Texas Hill Country animals react to and escape a wildfire.  So, this person’s knowledge was particularly valuable to my story.  (Just because my middle grade books are Texas animal tall tales does not mean they can’t be fact-based!)  Honestly, I was beginning to think I might have to find another expert.  Not an easy task when the nearest town’s population is just over 4,000!  Her email arrived just in time.  So glad it finally did. I wasn’t looking forward to hours of googling and binging.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered more answers to questions I had asked of another person…and there they were, just waiting for me in my virtual inbox. Wonders never cease!

While riding this informational ‘high,’ I started working on a chapter of the book that’s been troublesome. Not today! Breezed right through it! The plot came together. The words flowed. The characters knew exactly what to say. Astounding!

So, it just made sense that I take advantage and get the blog done, too.

News Flash!  I am so looking forward to my “blog swapping/tour” (well, that’s what we’re calling it!) with Kris Yankee, author of Saving Redwind: A Wallpaper Adventure. I’ll be interviewed on her blog on Monday, August 29th and Kris will be here on my blog Wednesday, August 31st. Kris is an interesting, talented, multi-dimensional person, and her book is awesome! (If you’d like a quick sneak peek:

One more recent good thing! Seems they just don’t stop today! Although I’ve known for months that I was going to be a grandma again, we just found out on Thursday that the expected baby is a boy! Hooray! Another grandson! Can’t wait!

Good things come to those who…exercise??

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A Line in the…Hand-scraped Oak Floor

I finally put my foot down and my sign up.  “Yes, I’m Working!”  The sign went on the door of the master bedroom suite, the alcove of which is my office.

I love my alcove office with its windows on three sides.  One overlooks a canyon, one the balcony where I keep my mint plants and fountain, one the wrap-around porch.  No curtains.   Surround-sound Bose speakers broadcast my immense music library.  I mean, I LOVE this office.  Now, go away and leave me alone!  I’m working.  I’m an author.

My husband and I and a very close friend retired to the Texas Hill Country four years ago.  We built our dream house on 44 acres of undeveloped land.  We have Brangus cattle for neighbors…and foxes, turkeys, deer, armadillos, jackrabbits, coyotes, feral hogs (curses on them), raccoons, skunks…all the usual Texas suspects.  We have a half-acre garden where we grow tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, etc.  It’s just what we always wanted.

And I’m doing just what I always wanted to do…devoting hours to writing my children’s books.  Unfortunately, they aren’t the uninterrupted hours for which I was hoping.

It’s one thing for me to leave my desk from time to time, to restore the circulation to my legs, or to get a cup of coffee.  It’s even acceptable for me to suspend my writing to put in a load of laundry, fix a meal, or watch a football game.  (Texas, remember?  Hook ‘em, ‘Horns!)

It is another thing, entirely, for my husband to say, “Come here and look at this.”  And “this” turns out to be an unusual capacitor or something else he discovered in his stash of valuable electronics he’s been collecting for decades.  Really.  I’m perfectly willing to share in his “finds.”  Sometimes they’re even interesting.  But not when I’m working.  Or our friend will say, “I’m going into town.  Do you want to go with me?  Maybe the antique store has new stuff.”  (Oxymoron?)  No. Thank you.  I’m working.

Is it such a difficult concept?  Writing is work.  It isn’t fun (most of the time), it isn’t a way to while away the hours, it isn’t a hobby.  Sometimes I even break a sweat!  It is work, dagnab it!

As I write this, I’m awaiting the repercussions.  “They” haven’t seen the sign yet.  “They” are off somewhere doing their respective important stuff.  But, I’m sure to hear about it when the sign is read.  At which time, I’ll have to explain it.  Or maybe I’ll just let them read this blog.  Something “they” have never done.  Hey!  That could be subject material for another blog!  Huzzah!


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A New Chapter

Today’s blog is simple. I’m posting the new, improved Chapter One of Palo Duro Panic: A Moochie Mockingbird Tale. (For those of you who are first time readers, the series is for 3rd to 5th grade readers, but also makes a good “read-to-me” book for younger kids. Available on Kindle for 99 cents!!)Thanks to the constructive comments of several readers, I’ve seen the errors of my ways…well, at least as far as the book is concerned…and made a few changes.  So, without further ado, the revised (but unfortunately unformatted) first chapter of Palo Duro Panic:

by Laynie King

Chapter One: Coyote Gets Caught
On this particular late afternoon in March, it was gloomily dark, bitingly cold, and very windy. In the heavy snow, Cody Coyote hunted along the rim of the canyon. His sharp eyes saw movement just off the path. Rabbit! A big old jackrabbit for his supper. Cody crouched for a jump. Just as he started to leap forward, his front paw slipped out from under him. He went sprawling forward on his chest. He thought he’d stop sliding right there, but Cody was wrong. As he slid, he dislodged a very large, very slippery piece of sandstone. The rock was covered with ice and once it started rolling, nothing was going to stop it. That rock, hundreds of small stones, and Cody went skidding along to the very edge of the mesa.
Then Cody stopped rolling, and he lay panting for breath. He could see over the edge. It was long way down to the canyon floor! The old coyote wondered why he’d stopped rolling and skidding where he did. Then he saw! That sandstone rock had also stopped rolling and skidding, slipping and sliding, too… stopped right on top of Cody’s left hind leg.
Cody could not move. He was trapped. Trapped under a sandstone rock. Trapped right on the edge of a canyon 820 feet deep. Trapped with no one around to hear his yelps for help. Trapped alone. He lay still and listened. He couldn’t hear the snow blowing, or the creak of the mesquite tree that jutted out from the canyon wall. He couldn’t hear himself panting. Cody couldn’t hear the hard beating of his heart. Couldn’t hear the wind. He listened again. He couldn’t hear anything! He touched his head with a paw and found a very sore spot under his ear. When he looked at the paw, he saw a faint smudge of his blood. He’d been hit by a tumbling rock.
Cody knew other animals that had lost their hearing after being hit in the head. But they heard just fine now. Cody hoped his hearing loss would be temporary. If he couldn’t hear, how would he ever be able to hunt? How could he find a squirrel hiding behind the cactus? Or hear a predator coming?
Cody Coyote lay his injured head down in the snow and thought. He was the oldest, wisest coyote in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Years of experience had made him a well-qualified teacher in the ways of the coyote, of nature, of other animals. It was Cody’s goal to make sure every pup born into his den could use its own good sense before it went out to face the canyon alone.
But all that knowledge wasn’t doing him any good right now. He couldn’t think of a way to get out from under that rock.
The old coyote remembered back a few hours that afternoon, just before the snowstorm hit. In a secluded cave under the canyon wall, old Cody had gathered the newest pack of young coyotes around him. He’d had to speak loudly to be heard over the howling of the wind outside the cave.
“It smells like snow! Stick your noses out into the wind and feel the cold and the damp. Feel the direction of the wind. That’s what snow smells like. It’ll be heavy on the ground before the afternoon is over. Now, I know how you like to jump and play while you’re hunting. And I know how some of you like to run away from the rest of the pack. But, for tonight, don’t ever go off on your own. When the weather is bad, y’all have to be more careful. Snow can make the rocks very dangerous. And where there’s snow, there’s usually ice. And where there’s ice, it’s slippery! I don’t want any of you hurt. So, be careful and be aware of your surroundings.”
Several of the pups had already started playing and weren’t listening at all. Casey Coyote stood up. “Y’all settle down now and listen to your elder.” Casey was a little older than the pups and sometimes he acted more important than he was. “Now, listen up!”
Casey was Cody’s grandson and he made the older coyote grin a bit. Cody remembered how he used to act important, too. He’d get a bit bossy with the little ones. Then those little ones would grow up, and Cody would have to deal with them being as big as he was! Casey would learn that lesson, too.
Then Cody had repeated his warning to the pups. “Stay together, two or three of you, and be careful. Good hunting. I’ll see y’all later.” The pups ran off into the canyon, each of them thinking of rabbit, squirrel, or mouse for dinner.
Now, lying on the edge of the mesa in the darkening dusk, Cody was a sad old coyote. He hadn’t listened to his own advice. Cody had started hunting alone and now he was trapped…and wondering what would happen next. He felt the snow fall into his thick fur coat. He felt the ice forming under his jaw, and the wind was making him so very cold. All through the long night, Cody waited in the silence. He couldn’t sleep, but he was very still. He had no choice but to wait for morning.

Copyright June 2011 All rights reserved

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think.

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I Can’t Stand “ITS” Any More…

…so I’m speaking out.

If you mean “it is,” the contraction is it’s.
If you mean “something belongs to it,” the possessive is its.

If it’s plural, there is NO apostrophe before the “s.”  Example:  car (one) ;  cars (more than one);  car’s is an incorrect pluralization…that would be possessive, as in car’s engine.

IT’S not difficult, people.

IT’S wrong in newspapers, on billboards, in advertisements, on and on, ad nauseam.  It seems as if NO ONE knows which one to use, including (but not limited to) editors, publishers, book agents, authors, blog writers, teachers, and most of the English-writing human race.

To make matters worse, the mistakes cited above are not the only common mistakes that have sneaked (not snuck) into our collective writings. The list is abominably long. As a proofreader and former editor, as well as a currently-published author…

Today I will take red pencil in hand and correct our local newspaper. I will forward it to the editor, along with my business card and an offer to work with them as a consultant…a well-compensated consultant.  I fully expect profound silence in response. My efforts will, in all likelihood, be in vain. But, at least I will have taken a stand.

While writing this, a memory started nagging the back of my brain.  Once upon a time, there was an organization based in the UK called SPAM…Society for the Prevention of Apostrophe Misuse. I Googled it, and apparently it’s now defunct.  I saw many mentions of the group, but no discussions that were dated more currently than 2009.  What a shame.  Perhaps I’ll start my own group…as soon as I can find an acronym that hasn’t already been used.  Stay tuned for further announcements.

If you are (correct contraction here would be you’re…not your) an author, blogger, writer, editor, agent, publisher, printer, or other entity that works with words on a daily basis, and you’re not sure of your proofreading skills, contact me. I can help. I’ve been doing this professionally for years. (Please note that I did NOT write year’s!)

If you are as bothered as I by abuse of the English language, please feel free to provide examples in the “Comments” section of this blog.

If you should happen to think of a possible acronym for an apostrophe-misuse group, please comment below.  All submissions will be read.  And corrected.

No apostrophes were abused or misused in the writing of this blog.  I do, however, plead guilty to an overuse of ellipses.  In my defense, it’s only for emphasis.


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Collaboration Coup

Amazing! (Yes, I know…another exclamation mark. I’m trying to quit…really!) Yesterday I got an unexpected offer from an unanticipated source. And, how fortunate for me.

We live in a rural area of Texas, on 17 acres of land that’s in the middle of a serious drought. Lakes are shrinking; people with lakefront property own docks that are now 75 feet from the water. (I’m delighted that we didn’t buy lakefront!) For the 4th of July, numerous fireworks displays were cancelled and the sale of firecrackers, etc. was banned. The reason behind all of this? Wildfire! We have junipers and cedars and dead wood and cacti and agave and dry grass that will go up like torches.

Enter the Texas Forest Service and their local representative, who came to our property yesterday to do a fire danger assessment. (We passed with very few suggestions, mostly because our home is stone and Hardy board, and we have no foundation plantings.) This woman was a font of information, prevention, and overall helpfulness. After an hour surveying our acreage, she concluded that our biggest problem was not having a straight driveway for easy firetruck access.

While we were taking an iced tea break from the 102 degrees outside, she asked what I did with all my spare time. I told her I write children’s books, and she wanted details. I went on to describe the books as Texas tall tales involving animals and gave her a little synopsis of my published book.

This is one of the few times in my life I can say, without fear of contradiction, that I actually saw someone’s eyes light up with excitement. “Have you considered doing a story about wildfires?” she asked.

“Funny you should ask. My husband and I were just discussing that the other day. Wildfire in the Hill Country and Moochie Mockingbird rescues some trapped animals.”

The Forest Service specialist immediately said, “You’ve got to do that story. Kids need to know that firefighters don’t just sit around in red brick fire stations all day polishing the big red truck. They don’t wait for the Dalmation dog to jump up on the front seat of the fire engine. They don’t just go screaming down the street with the siren blasting.  Kids don’t have a realistic view of what firemen really do and how dangerous fire can be! Please write that story!”

Now I’m excited. She has given me her email and phone numbers and promised me all the information I can consume about wildfire in Texas, what firefighters do, etc. I can’t wait to talk to her!

I also received a “push in the right direction” from a fellow author on LinkedIn. He asked if my books have a strong environmental message. Well, they do NOW! And that theme will mesh nicely with the books in my head that are waiting to be written.

As I said at the beginning, collaboration comes from unexpected sources. And I’m very grateful for it. Believe me, when the books and stories are published, I will give credit where credit is due.

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Timing and Good Ideas

After several days of sitting here staring out the window waiting for inspiration, ideas finally started popping into my head.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that I have a house full of company until next Tuesday.  And that includes my one-year-old grandson who demands a lot of attention.

While I would love to sit down and play with words for hours on end, as I usually do, that just is not happening this week.  As a matter of fact, I’m being summoned now to get ready to go to an all-day party.  I guess I could take my laptop with me.  Honestly, sometimes I’d rather spend time with my laptop than with people…especially when ideas are apparently flowing freely.

Okay, so back to the blog.  The timing of my good ideas is going to have to go by the wayside today.  Guess I’ll just take pencil-and-paper so I can write down what occurs to me.  I can always try to transfer those notes in the dead of the night.  At least everyone else will be asleep.  Time demands that I cut this off right here.  Watch for more next week…when my time is my own.

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