Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surf's Up!

Soccer, surf, and taking in the coast at Dana Point, California. A Thanksgiving tournament that was a lot of fun with friends.  Good job to the Infinity Girls U16 soccer team!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Top 5 reasons to love St. George in October.

1. Warm weather! After missing out on the sunny skies last weekend due to a video project that came up, I was rewarded with great weather for the last weekend of the month. It worked out perfectly since Eric was playing baseball all weekend.

2. Palm trees. Life can't be too bad, when you've got palm trees right outside the hotel room door.

3. Kneaders! Need I say more? The boys were treated to their first Kneaders soups and sandwiches. YUM!

4. 50% on Saturday nights at Kneaders. Yes, we returned for dinner here on the second night. I asked the cashier if he'd rung up the bill wrong, because it seemed way too low.... but surprise, surprise! It was 50% off! We immediately ordered seconds on dessert.

5. Finding a reason NOT to give up chocolate. ...At least, Kneader's chocolate.... After giving up beer and then coffee this year, I thought I might be ready to add chocolate to the list. But then I had one of those chocolate mint brownies from Kneaders. My son had ordered it, and I tasted it--reluctantly, because I wasn't sure I'd like it. Wham! I was wrong. Now I know what heavenly chocolate should taste like. And the timing couldn't be better, because all those Hershey's treats waiting to be given out at the door tonight definitely don't measures up. Woot!

6. Okay, so I know I was only going to give 5 reasons to like St. George, but here's another: scary movies to entertain us at night in the hotel room. Tis the season.

Trick or Treat!
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moose!!! Or, Batty Moosen!!!

My youngest son captured this photo while standing on the roof of my truck. Meanwhile, my other son and daughter warned us of the dangers of unpredicatable, charging meeses, or mooses, or specifically, the moosen we were capturing with our digital camera.

But he and I feared not.

As far as mooses go, this was a small moose.

And as far the English language goes, I think it needs to take care of words like moose, which for some reason don't like to be associated with plurals. If I had followed the rules, I would have repeated the word moose far too many times in the paragraphs above, driving my readers batty.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Setting, as it relates to: Living, Loving New Hampshire Again

My summer vacation with the kids was truly incredible. It was wonderful to connect with family and friends. The days were so full of sunshine, sailing, boating, fishing, and swimming, it was amazing to think I actually found time to sit back and relax in one place from time to time and simply enjoy the scenery.

Yet, even in those quiet moments, I was reminded of how when we settle down and be still, the world continues to move and breathe and fill in all the spaces around us with some form of energy, however subtle that may be.

The same can be said for writing, or more specifically, for writing about settings. (Yes, I always try to connect my posts to the subject). In a previous post, I said that a story is lost without a sense of setting. However, a setting is not simply colors and temperatures and textures and sounds. It's not enough to say, "The ridge was lined with green trees."

It's important that the setting be layered with a sense of movement, or energy.

Avi begins The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle with a setting that moves with the character:

Just before dusk in the late afternoon of June 16, 1832, I found myself walking along the crowded docks of Liverpool, England, following a man by the name of Grummage.

In Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwarz's setting seems nearly alive:

Lakes were scattered all over this part of the country, their outlines different, but their innards just the same. They were drops and drips and splashes on the land. They were holes and craters lined with skin too thin to hold back the springs that rushed to fill them, and most of them were dotted here and there with stubborn little islands, knobs of land that refused to dip their heads under water.

Good stories are written with settings that carry their own form of action, their own essense of life. In the real world, in nature, we become unsettled when something goes wrong, when the world becomes suddenly still--like the calm before the storm, causing us to stop, step back, and wonder what has happened.

Likewise, a reader can be thrown out of a story, or become disengaged, when the setting is too quiet, or too stark, or too absent (unless that in itself is part of the storyline). If too much is missing, if the reader doesn't become connected with a living world inside a book--one that moves and pulses with energy--then the reader isn't likely to stay too long. They'll wonder what is wrong, and perhaps, if they can't connect on a personal level with the character, they may walk away and connect with the energy of another.

I'm happy to say, my vacation, with all the combined energies of the quiet and action-packed moments, was far too hard to walk away from. But it's one that I can relive in the memories again and again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Details Matter for Setting a Sense of Place

I started carrying my camera a while ago, not wanting another moment to go by where I'd find myself wishing I had it with me. Today, the tumultuous sky captured the attention of my daughter and I.

I believe that in the deepest sense of being alive, whether each of us realizes it or not, we are connected to the world around us--both biologically and spiritually. That is why we're drawn to the outdoors--to watch and to experience what nature has to offer. And that is why we are drawn to books and to stories--to connect with something outside ourselves and to deepen our understanding of what it means to exist.

Creating a setting is one of the most important aspects of creating a story. It gives a foundation that readers can connect to. It the is foothold that keeps both your plot moving along. Without it, your characters and your readers can be left adrift, lost, and without balance. And when key aspects are missing from your setting, their absence echoes.

This spring, with the unusual weather, the absence of one of nature's pivotal species--the director of new life--has been sharply brought to my attention.... Bumblees.

The bees are gone. They have been missing from my yard. Whether it be due to the long, rainy spring we've had or disease, I'm not sure; but their gentle flitting among flowers has been missed.

Thus, I've been reminded. Details matter. Even the faint buzzing of a bumblebee--or, lack thereof--doesn't go unnoticed, both in stories and in life.

So, in both places, take care to not overlook the small stuff.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trolling Deeper Waters, Pelican-style

Pelicans "hunt" for fish in much the same way that sheepdogs herd sheep. They swim together, fanning out in a line, which spooks the fish into swimming ahead of them. The pelicans continue swimming forward, herding the fish into shallower waters where the pelicans can scoop them up into their expandable bills. I love pelicans! And I'm so happy we have a flock nesting in Cache Valley this year.

But of course, I'm not just a pelican lover, I'm a writer, and so now, I'll connect the dots between these two, because there's a lot to be learned from these magnificent birds.

Re-writing or editing a novel can be a lot like fishing, pelican-style. You swim over the surface of your story, checking plot, sharpening your characters, defining their motives, while herding the entire story into the shallows. Doing so allows you to focus in on what you've been mining for all along, the underlying message you really want your story to say, the emotional connection that feeds readers and keeps them connected.

Herding the "meat" of your story takes patience; it takes time; it might even take a little team work from your critique group; but it is entirely necessary for bringing up the treasures lying beneath the surface.

And if you do your job right, perhaps those treasures will even take flight.

Happy writing everyone!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Challenge for the Week....

Do something different, something you wouldn't ordinarily do, just for the heck of it.

What have you got to lose?

Not the experience. That, you get to take with you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Photo - Op with a Star (sort of)

How many times do you get to have your picture taken with a movie star?

For me? Never.

Until today. A day that will go down in history for the celebration of birthdays.

Because today, I got my picture taken with Tina's son, Elvis.

You remember Tina.... The llama from Napolean Dynamite?

She was great. Is great. And I got to meet her son, Elvis. He's a new neighbor of mine.

Isn't he cute?

I had to duck, because he was getting ready to spit on me. I'm sure it was a friendly birthday kind-of-spit,... because I told him it was my birthday.

Book-signing event at Hastings in Logan, Utah

Fun evening! Hastings did a great job promoting the event.

Who is that gorgeous girl on the cover?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baby Animal Days at the American West Heritage Center

Fun times with Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again
Judy and kids enjoying "Duck Duck Moose"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Out and About

I'm starting to like the idea of being published again, especially when I have a friend who can share in the experience.

Judith Torres (author of Duck Duck Moose) and I went to the UELMA conference together, where we shared a booth and got the opportunity to introduce our books to school librarians in Utah. It was a great weekend. As it turns out, we were able to schedule some school visits, the first of which is coming up at the end of April at Edith Bowen. We're both looking forward to spending the day with those students.

On our way home, we learned once again, the power of perserverance and the importance of never turning down an opportunity when it presents itself. As Judy was driving toward my house, we passed a red-tail hawk sitting on a fence post. It's one I had seen a few times over the previous week. Great minds think alike, and we both decided as we drove past, that we wanted that picture. We immediately went into "stalking" mode. Judy put the car in reverse and rolled down the window, and at the just the right kodak moment, I snapped the picture.

We're proud of this one, even if it turns out the hawk wasn't really cooperating and only showing its butt.

This weekend, we are presenting our books in story time at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville, Utah, as part of the Baby Animal Days celebration. I'm storytelling and singing with the kids for my book, Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again, while Judy is sharing Duck Duck Moose. Both of these books fit into baby animal days, because of all the little critters that star in the books.

I'll post more photos on that later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Litte Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again

It's been a busy few months. I'm thrilled with my latest announcement. Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again is now available.

This book is a chapter book for ages 7-10 that follows Little Red, as she makes a second journey through the forest. Will she follow the advice of her mirror, who warns her about talking to strangers?

I wrote this story several years ago, and it was one of my favorites to write and illustrate. It's a great feeling to finally see it published.

Here is the book trailer, if you'd like to see what it's all about.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

famous last words...

Can you guess which movies this line is from?

My, what big eyes you have....

I've actually been looking forward to this movie, so I hope the writing and desire to stick to the original story doesn't make it as ridiculous as the new trailer leads me to believe. It IS supposed to be a thriller, right? Not comedy?

I think most people know what the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood is about, so I fear that lines like "My, what big ears you have.... and My, what big eyes you have.... are just going to put me over the edge, because WHO talks like that in a creeeeeepy forest?

Maybe I'll just watch the movie with earplugs, because the visuals look pretty intense.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Memories, and lack thereof....

My recent blog post to extreme donuts brought me down memory lane, at least in regards to telephones. I remember when my family owned a Mickey Mouse telephone, like this one.

I loved that phone! But where did it go?
I don't remember.
I fear Mickey may have met his demise after one to many falls off the counter.

Which brings me to my new quest. Or, request.
I think I'd like a new phone. One that is reminiscent of the character and zest of the good ol' days. 
Mickey would be nice, but I think the stilletto phone shown below is more my style. 

Why? Because I figure, if I can't learn to walk in a pair of shoes like this, at least I can have fun talking in one.
Any takers?
Anyone not worried about giving up 20 pounds or so for the investment? (It's available in the UK).

As for the rest of my rant today on memory, mine is ka-put. I knew I should have noted the steps I was following while I was transforming my Word doc into PDF format in a way that would  not compress the pictures. So far, in my goal to repeat that process and move beyond the last stage of copy-editing my next book, Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again, I can not remember what I did before. All my pics are being saved at a low dpi in the PDF document, which doesn't bode well for printing in quality form. Thus, I can't release the book. YET.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Picture book marathon

I have learned a lot on this month's journey. It occurred to me during a discussion about chordates in my Biology class the other day that I've also learned a lot about the nature of things from reading and writing. Specifically, from the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, I learned that you don't need to have a brain in order to learn how to use one. So that's it! Perhaps this organ between my ears is a stumbling block.

JK ; )

Thus, the latest picture book from the mixed up files of Shaunda Wenger

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

I am floating somewhere in the midst of the middle of the marathon, realizing I may only finish a half-marathon, but I'm totally digging that, especially since this month's running has been piggy-backed with the release of The Ghost in Me, and readying the release of Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again. It's been busy. And Little Red would be ready to go, but I need to find a pdf conversion program that will not compress the resolution of my images inside the book to a quality that is lower than 300dpi. (IF ANYONE has any SUGGESTIONS on this, please send them my way. I would be so appreciative!)

Aside from that FRUSTRATION, I'm completely thrilled with the picture books I have drafted so far, and can't wait until I can dive into creating them sometime in the next couple months!

I have so much going on right now in my life, it is crazy! I hope someday I feel like I'm getting it all done.

Love you all,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

Given the hour, I'm not sure what day it is in the picture book marathon.  Today, I didn't get a new pb written, but I did work on revising the proof copy of Little Red Riding Hood: Into the Forest Again. This is a chapter book for ages 7-10, and I'm hoping it will be ready for publication by the middle of March.

Little Red Riding Hood was a favorite bedtime story of mine when I younger. I loved Little Red's bravery as she set out to walk throught the forest by herself to visit her grandmother. This sequel came to me one sunny winter's day in February 2007. I loved all of the characters as they met Little Red, but Big Bad surprised me the most.

Here is the cover, based on today's changes. It shows both the back and front sides of the cover.

Other than that, I am so amazed at the talent and skill of other Utah authors and illustrators. Julie Olsen and Will Terry announced the release of a new picture book as an application for ipad and iphone users that allows the interactive viewing of children's picture books. I'm so impressed with the direction that digital books are taking. This is yet another way to enjoy literature, while embracing the world's expansion into new technologies. Check this app out at http://www.jujubeeillustrations.com/. I bet this will be a much-loved application of parents who travel with toddlers, but want to lighten their load with the books/entertainment they carry.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 3 for Me. Picture Book Marathon

Another day near done. Here is part-word, part-photo essay of the day's and past week's events.

Started another pb, and will finish it tonight, then write the other that just popped into my head.

After the catastrophe of dropping my paper with my handwritten story in the puddle, I switched to creating little 32-page booklets, that I scribble my text out on. It's working great actually, because I can see the structure of the book in my hands as it unfolds with each page-turn, and it helps keep the word-count to a minimum, since my page space is only about 5x5inches.

Shot a video of Judy Torres reading her book, Duck, Duck, Moose, to some school kids today. It went great! The kids loved it. The teachers loved it. "Book Trailers R Us" is the next venture. ; )

A few days ago, I was lured to the side of the road--or rather, the side of a speedy highway--to capture this photo of some hopeful, patient ducks. At first, I thought they might be waiting for the ice to thaw, but perhaps they are waiting for the fish to bite?... Ice fishing, anyone?

The rest of my week and the days to come is recorded in a list a that is five pages long. Yes, that's my to-do list. I'm getting thru it, bit by bit, but I also have always been good at cramming, especially when it comes to crunch time.

For now, I'm just fueling the muse with chocolate, as shown by the wrappers piling up on my desk...

Happy writing everyone!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My 2nd Day of the Picture Book Marathon

If you are a writer, who strays from the computer and scribbles your ideas out on paper, then you need to read this bit of advice.

Do not use felt-tip pens.

Mine was part of a set of 4 that I got as a Christmas gift. I thought they were so neat. That colorful set of four: black, red, green, blue. So, of course, when I sat down to write my first pb for the marthon, I turned to this thoughtful gift.

Unfortunately, the ink of this thoughtfut gift runs right off the paper, if you happen to be rushing into work and your paper that holds your new story, that you shoved into your notebook, falls out of that notebook in the midst of all your rushing and lands in a puddle. A deep, dark, wet puddle.

And stays in that puddle all day, because you are inside working, where you should be, and even end up staying after-hours, because that is what you do when students ask for extra help, and you don't return to your vehicle until the end of the day and find that paper soaked all the way thru, with a few hints of that coloful, red ink blotching up the edges. It even tears in half when you try to pick it up, because it is drenched and would prefer to stay stuck to the pavement where it has been laying for 7 hours....

7 hour-work-day. Rough, I know. I shouldn't complain.

I don't. And I didn't, because this is how life works for me.

So, I did my best to pick up the sopping paper that once held the words to my story, and put all three pieces of it in the back of my car, because I don't litter, and headed home, and sat down, and rewrote my story.

The good news? I think I like it even better the second time around!

Now I just have to find a safe place to put the paper that it's written on....

And the funny thing is, the title still includes the word, CAUTION!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

I told myself I would do this event this year. Despite crazy hectiness (yes, that is my new word, in the spirit of picture book creativeness (another new word), I finally made it to the starting line. Last night I woke a little after midnight with 3 ideas rattling my brain. I had told myself I had to wait until Monday (today) to start, so at 1:30 in the morning I got out of bed and started writing. I'm so excited to be digitally and spiritually connected to so many wonderful people--especially those who love to create books for children.

This year's logo for the marathon was designed by author-illustrator crazy-man Nathan Hale. Isn't it cool? His website has tons of fun stuff, so if you want to check it out, visit http://www.spacestationnathan.com/

As far as my tally on pb so far, my first picture book is based on the word, Caution. Don't know if that's a good sign or not. We'll see!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Apps for the Print-on-Demand or Self-Publishing Author

In designing the covers for my two latest projects (see links at the top of this page), The Ghost in Me (Feb 2011) and Little Red Riding Hood (March 2011), I found two useful and FREE tools online. Although both are available for purchase in more advanced platforms, if you desire.

The first program is photo editing software at Picnik.com

I used this program to create, enhance, and adds effects and text to both book covers. For The Ghost in Me, I started with a photo I had taken of my models. Obviously, what I ended up with is far different from what I started with. The original photo is shown here.

I also used Picnik to enhance photos that I had created for the extreme donoughts project that Rick Walton and I are working on. (Merged photos were first made in Jasc Paintshop Pro).

The second program that I've found I cannot live without is Artweaver 1.0, which I downloaded from the web. It follows the same format as Paintshop, which is nice since I'm already familiar with that program. And overall, it is even easier to use. Artweaver helped me fine tune the watercolor image I had painted for the Little Red Riding Hood cover. This program can also be used to create original digital artwork on your computer. I used this feature to create my company logo.

Simple, I know. But simple is good.

Also, as far as scanning in the artwork I had created for Little Red Riding Hood, I made life easy with the fine folks at Alpha Graphics in Providence, Utah. They scanned all my images on to my flashdrive for a reasonable rate, which saved me from buying hardware and taking time needed to learn to use it.

Other artists/writers have had success going with this sort of route, as an alternative to scanning in images themselves. I know that Judith Torres, author of Duck, Duck, Moose (Lazyone.com, Feb 2011), was very pleased with similar tasks completed for her at Square One Printing in Logan, Utah.

So, if you want to create your own artwork, but don't want to deal with uploading it into digital format yourself, look into local printing stores as a resource.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Works, and What Doesn't

Here's what works on the road to publication: Lots of long hours at the computer, while wearing many different hats, but it's oh-so-worth-it.

If all goes well, I will officially be releasing The Ghost in Me for publication in early Februray. I'm pushing for the 5th,... just because it sounds nice. The ghost's face is more prominent on the actual book cover, than how she appears here, btw.

Here's another thing that works:
Skechers tone ups!
Especially when those long hours at the computer keep you from the gym, provided you at least get up and walk around a bit.

Heres what doesn't work:
at least, if you're a NY Jets fan. 

Here's another thing that works:
Smiles. Even when you want to pull your hair out.

Food, of course always works, too.

But here is what doesn't work for writers, who type, think, and talk with their hands......

Doritos, 3rd Degree Burn
yes, jalepenos go a long way

And that is all I know. for now.

What works for you? What doesn't?
Post here. ; )