Wednesday, September 26, 2007


At a recent family meeting, my husband and I explained that we needed to try to cut back on our expenditures. We had recently bought a third car for our teenager to drive (allowing me to avoid dragging my two youngest children out of bed at 7AM every day to take my teenagers to school) and we decided that with Christmas coming up, it was time to cut back. Among several of the proposed cuts was allowance. My kids had gotten into the habit of wanting us to pay allowance while still generating a lot of expenses as though we had money to burn. (If anyone has seen that tree that money grows on, please tell me where to find it!)

Last night at one of our weekly family meetings, my husband started to go around the room. He always starts our meetings by asking each of our kids "Do you have anything to bring up?" Deciding to start with the youngest first, he asked our three-year-old this question. Luke looked like he was pondering his answer. He then said, "Ummmm. Allowance?"

And I thought raising teenaged girls was hard!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reasons not to clean

The ladies at church had a "not your normal talent" night last week. I tried pulling the "I don't have any talents" routine, but they weren't buying it. Then it dawned on me. Every time someone asks how I find time to write novels, I reply "I have a messy house." (Not always true, but also not terribly relavant.) I decided my not normal talent could be sharing my many excuses not to clean my house (or at least postpone cleaning until I have children around to share the experience.) I'll start with my list and then move on to some of the comical suggestions I received from some other LDS authors.

Traci's top ten list of reason's not to clean:

1. I'm teaching my kids responsibility by having them clean for me.

2. The house is just going to get dirty again anyway.

3. I need to exercise and cleaning will tire me out.

4. The lady from the health department is on vacation this week.

5. Dusting makes me sneeze.

6. Doesn't sweeping kick up dust too?

7. If I run the vacuum, I might not hear the phone when someone calls for a ride. (Heather B. Moore also reminded me that my three-year-old will just carry a fistfull of crackers through the house five minutes later anyway.)

8. I'm reading. (I call this research any time it looks like I might be enjoying myself too much.)

9. I'm writing. (Surely someone needs a good book to read, and I just have to be the person to write it.)

10. I'm editing. (Also known as the moments when I let my sisters-in-law loose with a red pen.)

Now for some of my favorites from other authors:

I should put a plug in here for visiting teaching as many comments referred to that odd practice by the ladies belonging to my beloved Mormon church who go out and visit one another on a regular basis. I'm now convinced that the reason we are supposed to visit each other at least once a month is so that people like me will be forced into cleaning at least that often.

Heather B. Moore suggested that I stop having people over so often so that I won't have to clean nearly as much-- and that I should tell my visiting teachers that I'll meet them at the park.

Janet Jensen had the brilliant idea that if I leave the vacuum in the middle of the floor it will look like I'm in the middle of housecleaning so that my visiting teachers will be impressed.

Loralee Evans suggested that my reason not to clean should be because I've decided to run an informal animal shelter for all of those poor hungry mice and rats. (I think I'll pass on letting my house get that bad!)

I loved Allison Palmer's advice when she said I should tell people that I'm redecorating and I can't decide which way to go with it. I also liked her suggestion of having one room right inside the front door that can stay perfect. That way when people come over it's possible to look like the perfect housewife regardless of what the rest of the house looks like

And finally, I have to pass along Tristi Pinkston's suggestions for reasons not to clean. Hopefully you'll laugh as hard as I did!

...because you're promoting a healthy intestinal climate for your family by encouraging bacteria growth, both good and bad for balance.

...because you're too busy growing organic vegetables in your bathtub.

...because the Boy Scouts need a service project once a year, and you've decided you can best serve them by letting them serve you.

...because you have to maintain just one flaw, because you were about be translated and you decided you wanted to stick around for a while longer.

...because you want to be like me :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Juggling manuscripts

I always seem to juggle a dozen things on any given day. Most moms do. This week has been a completely new juggling experience. In addition to working on my new project (BIAM), I was determined to finish abridging my next novel (Freefall) for the audio version. I hate having things hanging over my head, so this project ended up at the top of my list. (Of course the top of my list still comes behind playing with my three-year-old, making sure that the nine-year-old practices her piano and the high school aged kids do their homework.)

Just as I received the most recent version of the manuscript to work off of, I also received the evaluator comments on another novel I had submitted. My editor felt that some revisions were in order before sending it forward to the evaluation committee. I glanced through the comments enough to talk out some ideas with her and make some plans of what needs to be done. I then got a call from my sister-in-law, Rebecca, who helps me edit all of my novels before I submit them. She had just finished looking over yet another manuscript, one that my editor has been anxiously waiting for.

Needless to say, with three completed manuscripts on my desk (I think there's still a desk under all of that paper) I had to make some decisions on what project to work on first. Although I was nearly done with the audio book, I decided to start on the novel my sister-in-law had returned to me. She is incredibly talented with making suggestions on how to smooth out my problem spots, and I was excited to see that not a lot more work needed to be done on this one. I spent all day yesterday writing the summary, filling out the required submission forms, and reading over the latest changes. Then, with my fingers crossed, I sent it into cyberspace to my editor.

After my anxiety level started back toward normal, I decided to finish up the audio book. That project was finally completed today and has also made the voyage to my editor's e-mail inbox. At this point, I'm not only feeling sorry for my overburdened desk, but also my overburdened editor.

Now I just have to find a way to relax enough to find the heart of yet another novel before getting back to the project I had planned to work on this month. If nothing else, I have learned one thing. No matter how much you practice, juggling manuscripts will always give you papercuts.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Free education???

Sorry folks, but I just have to vent. School here in northern Virginia started the day after labor day. I took my three school-aged kids to their respective open houses, collected the school supply lists, and then analyzed what could be used from previous years and what had to be bought that was new. Admittedly, with two kids in high school the supply costs weren't nearly as bad as when they were all in elementary and middle school, but still the fact remains that education isn't free.

I resigned myself to spending more than a hundred dollar for paper, glue, binders, crayons and markers. Old backpacks were repaired, lunch boxes found new owners since I refused to buy new ones and no one wanted the same one as last year. Then reality set in. I got the bill for my daughter's cheerleading. OUCH!!! We had already spent several hundred dollars on the camp the coach had deemed mandatory, ordered shoes (that still aren't in yet), and paid more than $100 for clothes that fit my 9-year-old, not the 16-year-old they were purchased for. Now we were being given bills for new uniforms (even though the parents voted against them) that won't even arrive until the season is nearly over.

Yes, I know I sound like a whiny parent. The truth is that I'm not just a whiny parent. I'm also a coach. In fact, I coach at the same high school. To think that I feel guilty that my swimmers have to pay around $45 per year plus the cost of their optional team suit ($20-$40.)

Now back to the whole point of my rantings. Has education ever been free?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

That James Dude

Okay, I finally broke down and did it. I visited The Dashner Dude's blog to see what the buzz was about. The Dashner Dude, aka James Dashner, announced several days ago that he would give a free book to the first 30 people who link up to his site. I visited his site briefly only to be interrupted by the Verizon repairman and the ensuing lack of service for several hours. As is common for me, I promptly forgot what I was doing before the annoying interuption occured and got busy with the writing side of my life -- and trying to cut those pesky 20904 words from my latest novel for the audio book.

Today my daughter was reading over my shoulder when I finally visited the Dude's site once more. We both got a good laugh out of his latest escapades and my daughter got so excited at the prospect of getting one of his books we decided we had to take him up on his offer. So here is the link to the brilliant James's site so that you can all share the Dude's latest adventures and his completely unique sense of humor. Of course, you can read all about his newest books too.

By the way James, you can just autograph that free book to Christina, your favorite fan.

Too early???

I admit it. I stayed up WAY too late last night. I was on a roll on my audio book, happily finishing up the draft with one word to spare. I figured that it wouldn't hurt to stay up past midnight since I could sleep in today. After all, it's Saturday right? Less than six hours later my three-year-old raced into my room. Apparently he doesn't know that it's Saturday. I tried to be annoyed at being woken up. Really, I did. But how could I be annoyed when my darling little boy came in to snuggle and hide from his fictional snowman monster? (Yes, imaginations run wild from an early age in my family.) We had to roar to scare it away in whispers -- after all, we didn't want his older sisters to come in and roar back -- and hiding under the covers lasted for nearly twenty minutes. Adding those twenty minutes to the time I was really sleeping, I finally managed to get my six hours in bed. Lessons learned. I need to go to bed on time, and three-year-olds don't care about weekends!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Airline Hostages

This is a free country, right? Then how is it that our citizens can have the misfortune of picking the wrong flight and end up held hostage on an airplane for hours on end? I have been pondering this question for the past few days while my husband was away on business. He had flown out of Washington National airport early on Monday morning, but by noon I started getting frequent e-mails from him as he sat in a plane on the runway in San Antonio. He wasn't even supposed to go through San Antonio. He was trying to get to Dallas! After a couple of hours, we were both starting to wonder if ransom demands were about to be made. He was supposed to arrive in Dallas at 9:30AM, but he didn't walk into the Dallas airport until 5:30PM. A thunderstorm was the publicized reason.

What I don't understand is how these poor passengers (and I know my husband was one of many) could be left to sit on various runways and not be provided any services. The whole ordeal might not have been so overwhelming had the passengers been provided with some of the basic necessities. Things like water.

Word is that delays in airline travel were worse this summer than ever before. Now I ask, what can be done to fix this problem? It sounds like it's about time for another tea party. Then again, we'd need water for that.

Audio book dilemmas

I understand how convenient audio books are, especially to people who spend a lot of time in their cars, but sometimes I think the abridging process is more difficult that writing a novel in the first place. It dawned on me this week that it's about time to start abridging my next novel, Freefall, for the audio book version. The book is due out sometime in the spring and I don't want to get too far in my other projects without getting this one completely wrapped up.

What I hadn't realized was how many words I had to cut. My books seem to be growing in length, and this is the first time I have been faced with cutting more than 20,000 words. (20,903 words to be exact.)

Though I hated to do it, I pulled two subplots out, and cut several scenes that were not from the main characters' points of view. Just as I was considering how many bandaids I would need to keep this audio version from bleeding, I checked my word count only to find I still have almost 3,000 more words to cut. Oh, the joy.

As I prepare to go back into surgery to find the heart of this book, red pen in hand, I find myself with a new goal: to have a book accepted that will be unabridged in the audio version. First, I just have to survive finishing this one! Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New project blues

I keep reminding myself that the first week of starting a new novel is always the hardest. No matter how excited I am about the story, no matter how much I've pondered the characters and the plot, I always find myself asking the same questions. "Why am I doing this? Isn't writing supposed to be fun?" Then I remember the basic truth. I don't write because I want to, I write because I have to.

My fellow fiction writers out there know what I'm talking about. You understand the stories that live inside your head, only to haunt you until they find their way onto paper. You've felt that rush of adrenaline when you get into the flow of your story and it takes on a life of its own. You've experienced the heartbreak and joy of your characters as they breathe life onto the pages.

At times like these, I also have to remind myself of the rewards. Some day, hopefully someday soon, I will be able to hit the print button on my computer and that magical combination of paper and toner will produce words that I will want to read over and over again. And just maybe someone else will want to read those words too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Beginnings

I've been inspired by my fellow LDS authors to start my own blog. As for what it will entail, only time will tell. At one time, during my early teenage years, I wrote faithfully in my journal. As time went on and my responsibilities increased, I found myself picking up my journal less and less. Since I've all but stopped writing in my journal, I hope this format might be used more frequently.

Recently I accepted the challenge by another author, Tristi Pinkston, to write a book in a month. We started on Monday and, if all goes well, those of us who accepted her challenge will have a finished novel by midnight on October 9th. The book I chose to start is a parallel novel to "Freefall" which will be released sometime in the spring of 2008. I already have a second novel written and almost ready to submit, but I decided to write a third in the series simply because I know most of the characters names.

Imagine a writer that has trouble naming characters and picking titles. Well, that's me. Once I figure out the basic names, I can steal a few minutes here and there at the computer and suddenly find a completed manuscript on my desk four or five weeks later. It's like I'm not sure exactly how it got there, but sometimes I think it's best not to overanalyze these things! Now I just have to hope that the same magic I've experienced in the past will fill my imagination as this challenge continues. Wish me luck -- and good luck to the rest of you out there who are participating in this challenge as well.