Mama Diaries

Monday, April 16, 2018

Creative Vaping

For those of you who have no idea what vaping is, let me educate you. It's "smoking" electronic, or e-cigarettes. It's a big thing for teens and young people. In Georgia, where I live, there are Vape Shops everywhere. You can get these e-cigarettes in all kinds of flavors. That's part of what makes it attractive to these people. Unfortunately, it's not safe. There are cancer-causing chemicals in these things.

My teenage son came home from school the other day and told me about a kid who got in trouble because he was vaping. "He put the liquid in a flash-drive and smoked it," he said.

I've heard of using pipes, but not flash-drives. I looked this up online. I wanted to see if this kid was being creative, or if others were doing it, too.

What my son was talking about is called, juuling. People vape through a device that looks like a flash-drive, but it's not. It's very small. They can conceal it in their pockets, take a hit, and blow the "smoke" into their arm. Kids are doing this in the classroom.

Something else parents need to worry about!

Have you ever heard of vaping? If you are a teacher, have you had problems with this in your classrooms?

If you'd like to watch a video on it, click here.    

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Guest Author: Corrina Austin







Today, I have a very special guest on my blog:  author, Corrina Austin. Her book, Corners, was recently released. When I read it, I thought it was such an excellent book. I asked if she would be willing to come on and answer some questions about it, and she obliged. 
   

Blurb:

Everyone needs their own special corner...


It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.


The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners”–forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others. 


Available in eBook format or print




My review:

The summer of '69 was a memorable one for Davy. He was ten years old. That's when he met thirteen-year-old Ellis, the girl who rescued him from the deep end of a pool. The two spent the last weeks of summer vacation together after Ellis offered to babysit Davy while his single mom worked. Their days were spent fixing up neglected corners. Cleaning up and beautifying them did a lot of good not just for Davy and Ellis, but for others in the story.

Corners is told by Davy, alternating as the adult David sharing the story with his ten-year-old son, Will, and the fourth-grade Davy. It has a nostalgic feel, as it paints the picture of a more laid-back time–old diners, grandmothers baking in the kitchen, and kids playing outside. Those who grew up in the time will recognize the songs mentioned and the movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet. The author does a great job of giving readers a sense of what it was like to live in the summer of '69.

The beauty of the story is not in the action, but in the depth of the characters. The relationships between the characters are well-fleshed out and heartwarming. Corners is considered a middle grade book, and certainly it would appeal to kids that age who are interested in coming-of-age stories that are relationship-driven, but it is also a story that adults would enjoy–especially those who grew up during the '60s and '70s. Highly recommended.  - 5 Star Review


Now, without further ado, here is the interview:



1.     What inspired you to write Corners?

My Dutch heritage means that corners are in my blood. The Dutch love their beautified corners in their homes and gardens. My parents’ house and yard are filled with them and that has definitely influenced me. I have been a “corner” designer myself since I was child. I always had to share a room with my sister as I was growing up and I was desperate for a space of my own. I would pester my mom to give up a little corner of the house somewhere for my writing and drawing. There were four kids, so privacy was hard to come by. A writer needs a special spot to call her own. I did then and I do now. 

I did not know that about Dutch people. If I ever visit their part of the world, I'll have to pay attention to the corners they create! And yes, I agree, writers need a special spot to call their own.


2.     How did you come up with your characters?

I had 31 years of elementary school teaching experience as well as 4 children of my own, so there was much to draw from. I don’t claim to “know it all,” but I have learned a few things about kids and how they feel, think, and interpret the world. More than this, I am lucky enough to remember clearly how it feels to be a kid. Aside from this general kind of knowledge about childhood, my characters really just unfolded on their own as I wrote.

Your characters have a very natural feel. Everything about their relationships flows. Your experience with children and people must've really helped a lot.


3.     What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The whole appeal of writing (for me) is to make connections with others on a level that can’t happen in “regular” conversations. Inspiring people to make contact with memories they otherwise would have forgotten, opening doors to new perspectives, engaging emotions…all of those things bring great satisfaction to me. The most enjoyable thing for me personally was the time travel. A lot of the details of daily life in the 1960’s resurfaced for me when I was writing, and I loved seeing them all again.

You did a great job bringing that time period to life. It certainly brought back a lot of memories for me!


4.     What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading this book?

I have always believed that positive changes do not have to be big in order to have influence. When individual people focus on creating beauty and kindness in their own little corners, there is a chain effect that can have a huge impact on the larger world. I wanted to write something that would reflect this belief.

That's a beautiful message, and it's very clear in your book. 


5.     What were your favorite song(s) and movie(s) from this time period (60's and 70's)?

I loved singing along to Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” in the car--and the Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe.” I preferred the poetic and the melancholy even back then.

My favourite movie of the time was “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” starring Don Knotts. It was the story of a nerdy man who wanted more than anything to be a fish—and not only did he get his wish, but he became a war hero! I watched it every time it came on TV. I loved writing about that movie in Corners. I wish I could’ve used some of the lines from that movie as well as some of the song lyrics of the day…but copyright prevented it.

It's been ages since I've seen "The Incredible Mr. Limpet." It was such a fun movie! I thought it was great that you chose that one to be part of your story.



6.     Have you ever made your own corner?

Many times! My first corner was a little plot of earth Mom gave me at the edge of the yard when I was nine. I planted hills of watermelons and kept minnows in the pond feature, which was a tin can buried up to the top in dirt. I also planted a couple seedling trees in there. One of them is a giant tree now. My parents still live there and it shades the back part of the yard. It also became the cemetery plot for a baby robin I nursed for a week…I still get teary thinking of that bird.

I chuckled reading about your "pond feature." Sounds like something I would've done when I was a kid. Sorry about the robin. I'm sure it would thank you for the lovely resting place you gave it.


7.     What would your perfect corner be like?

It would be a little shed or cabin near my house with hydro and heat. It would need to be big enough for a comfy chair or loveseat, have big windows and lots of light, and counter space for my painting (which is another interest of mine). Of course, there would be endless tea supplies. It would have window boxes overflowing with summer blooms…and it would be very quiet and tidy.

That sounds fabulous! You paint, too? You're so talented!


8.     What do you do when you're not writing or promoting your books?

I retired in 2015 from teaching, although I will be going back to do a bit of supply work. I  sing alto in a fantastic Community Choir called “Choral Connection.” I paint landscapes (mostly in oils), play my piano (not very well) and hike three seasons of the year (winter isn’t one of them). I love to travel. Last September, I went to Ireland! I enjoy hanging out with my family and my most beautiful in all the world Golden Retriever. Her name is Cobi.

Your interests are very similar to mine! I'm a musician, and I love travelling and hiking. A kindred spirit! Your trip to Ireland sounds wonderful! I bet you have some great photos and memories from it!

9.     Are you working on a new book?

Yes! It also has a child protagonist, but it’s much darker than Corners. He is the survivor of a terrible trauma and the book is the story of how he tries to make his way back from it. It’s been difficult to write, but I think it’s framing in well. I have about 250 pages so far.

I'd love to read it when it gets published. Best of luck writing it!


10.  Where is one place you'd like to visit that you haven't been before?


I am longing to visit Paris…and that might happen this summer! I would also love to go to New York City. I am not much of a city person, but I think a few days in the Big Apple would be an amazing adventure.

Paris is nice. I've  been there several times. Each time I find something new. I haven't stayed in New York City -driven through it on my way to the airport, but that's it. That would be an adventure!

Thanks for stopping by and chatting. It was great having you as a guest!




Corrina Austin is a retired elementary school teacher, living in beautiful South-Western Ontario, Canada. She has Bachelor’s degrees in both English and Education. Corrina has published several short stories and essays and was twice the recipient of grants for a novel in progress from the Ontario Arts Council. “Corners” was inspired by her experiences as a child growing up in the 1960’s and contains many artifacts from her memories of those times. To get to know her better, check out her blog at https://trustcake.wordpress.com/. You can also visit her on Twitter (@corrinaaustin), Instagram (readingcorners) and via her author page on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Something Different

The other day, as I was roaming around the blogosphere, I landed at Susan-Swiderski's blog. She was answering a bunch of different questions that had to to with writing. I thought I'd take the time to answer them on my blog, so y'all might know a little more about me as a writer.

So here we go:

1. What are you working on right now? I'm revising book two of my Bubba and Squirt Series. (Book 1:  Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China is being published by Dancing Lemur Press and will be released September 4, 2018.) There's no guarantee that I'll get a book 2 deal. It all depends on how book 1 does. But I want to be ready, just in case. (Book 2 is Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Treasure.)

2. How is it different from others in the genre? I think the closest comparison is the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne. That's for a slightly younger crowd. This one is a step up, and it takes place in the present - not the past as many of the Magic Tree House books do. My emphasis is on learning the language, history, and culture of the country Bubba and Squirt visits.

3. What experiences have influenced you? I've done a lot of travelling. One of the things I most enjoy is learning about the country I've visited. Writing these Bubba and Squirt books is a way to bring that experience to kids and teach them about other people and cultures.

4. Why do I write what I do? It's fun.

5. How does your writing process work? I'm a plotter. I write outlines and figure out the general path of the story. Sometimes I'll come up with subplots as I go, and then I weave them into the story. And sometimes things end up going a little differently than planned. But I still know what the problem is, and how it's going to be solved. If I don't create an outline, I get hopelessly lost and don't finish the project.

6. What is the hardest part about writing? Revising. It takes forever! I can stare at a sentence twenty minutes and rewrite it fifty times and still not be happy with it. Getting the right words with the right flow can be challenging.

7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't tried yet? Maybe writing horror stories. That's way outside of what I write. But I did an anthology contest that explored a darker side of writing, and I actually enjoyed it.

8. Who are the authors I admire? Rick Riordan, Kate DiCamillo, John Green

9. What scares you? As an author, I'd say putting my work out there, and having the majority of  people not like it. It hasn't happened yet, and I hope it never does. But when you put something out for the public to scrutinize, you're opening yourself up to criticism. That's scary.


Schultz says falling satellite debris  is scary. He wore this tin foil hat for protection when the Chinese satellite fell down on Sunday. Fortunately, it didn't land anywhere near us. Schultz was relieved!

If you're a writer, what's the scariest thing for you?

In case you haven't had enough interview-reading material, you can go here  and read my interview with The Children's Book Reviewer. I'm talking about my newest book, Don't Feed the Elephant. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Shakespeare According to Mama

The other day, my daughter had to take some lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth and translate them into English that people these days would understand.

"Mom," she said staring at the words, "I have no idea what this is about."

I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading. Here's what it said:

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well 
It were done quickly. If th’assassination 
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch 
With his surcease success: that but this blow 
Might be the be-all and the end-all, here, 
But here upon this bank and shoal of time, 
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases 
We still have judgement here, that we but teach 
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return 
To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice 
Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice 
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust: 
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, 
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, 
Who should against his murderer shut the door, 
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan 
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been 
So clear in his great office, that his virtues 
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against 
The deep damnation of his taking-off, 
And pity, like a naked new-born babe, 
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed 
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, 
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye 
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur 
To prick the sides of my intent, but only 
Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself 
And falls on th’other.

"Whoa," I said. "'Tis mighty long-winded!"

"What's he saying?" my daughter asked.

"I think some dude is thinking about killing someone. But he's thinking there might be consequences. And maybe he's thinking it would be a bad example to others. And maybe he thinks it would come back and bite him in the butt."

"That makes sense. Why couldn't Shakespeare say it the way you did?"

"Because people back then wouldn't have understood a word I just said."



What about you? Do you remember reading Shakespeare in school? Could you understand what he was talking about?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cat Stalkers

Before I begin, I'd like to let you know that blogger friend, Traci Terry is doing a giveaway of my newest picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant. If you'd like to enter, or read the nice review she posted, go here.

Now for the story:

A couple of evenings ago, I was out walking around the neighborhood. I noticed a cat. He was hiding behind a bush in stalk mode. I wondered what he was stalking, so I watched. Turns out, he was stalking another cat, who happened to be wandering aimlessly through someone's yard. I didn't think the stalker cat was being very nice, so I decided to give him a little surprise. I stalked him.

I snuck up behind him in super-stealth mode. He didn't have a clue I was there.  Then, when I was an arm's-length away, I shouted, "Boo!"

You should've seen that cat!  Let's just say I scared him good!  He ran off as fast as he could.

The next morning, Schultz, our German Shepherd, and I went out for a walk. Guess who we saw? The cats. Not exactly in stalk mode, but still out and about. Schultz decided he wanted to try stalking. Trouble is, he's not so good at it. Problem number one is that his tags jingle. Anything can hear him coming a mile away. And problem number two is that he simply doesn't know how to properly stalk. Slow motion is a foreign concept. It's all about chasing. Needless to say, Schultz didn't scare any cats. I think I need to teach him a thing or two!

 

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Germ Shepherd

Our German Shepherd, Schultz, recently had a case of a bad ear infection. It seems that the satellite ears of the breed are very good at collecting debris. Ear infections are quite common with German Shepherds. When the veterinarian did a swab sample of whatever was in Schultz's ear, the collection revealed an assortment of fungus, bacteria, and who-knows-what-else. Poor dog! He took his medication, and I'm happy to report he's fine now.

But the funny thing is, on the same day he came back from the vet, we received his renewed license. (Pet owners in Georgia have to renew these every year.) On the license it read, "Germ Shepherd." I chuckled. Very appropriate!

                                                   Schultz, the Germ Shepherd

One more thing:

As I was wandering through the cyber universe, I found these very cute pictures of a German Shepherd and his owl friend. If you'd like to see them, click here.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mom-tastrophe

If you have school-age kids, you know how crazy it can be in the morning, trying to get them ready for school. After breakfast, my teenage son always wants to crawl back into bad for an extra fifteen minutes of sleep. Usually, he wakes up in time and gets to the bus stop. The other day, he did not.

"Mom, can you drive me to the bus stop?"

I had just put the last hot roller in my hair, and was getting ready to apply my makeup. I had to be out the door for a meeting in less than thirty minutes. "Dude, seriously?"

"Yeah. I'm not going to make it if we don't go now."

I sighed. I didn't want to take the rollers out, because the hair wouldn't have had time to curl properly. I ran out of the bathroom and grabbed my purse and keys. "Fine. Let's go."

Of course, he missed the bus, which meant I had to drive him to school wearing no makeup and sporting hot rollers in my hair. Not a pretty sight.  "This is so not cool!" I complained.

Bubba laughed. "You look great, Mom!"

I frowned. Then I spotted a police man, parked, waiting to nab speeders. I won't say what I thought, but it was about as nice as I looked. I frantically started pulling the rollers out of my hair, and managed to get all but the back ones out. At least if he had seen me from the side and front, I'd have looked normal. I figured it would have been just my luck to get stopped looking like such a disaster. Fortunately, my speed didn't activate his radar. I put on a pair of sunglasses, and hoped my funky hair-do wouldn't attract too much attention.

It didn't. I dropped the boy off to school without anyone giving me any funny looks. I also got home and did my makeup and hair properly, so that when I went out again, I was no longer a mom-tastrophe.

Have any of you ever had a similar experience?


Before I go, I'd like to share a book trailer for my newest book, Don't Feed the Elephant. If you haven't already seen it, it features animation of some of the illustrations, and a narration done by me. The trailer was produced by epublishingeXperts who illustrated the book. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Souper Blog Hop




Hi everybody! Today, I'm participating in the Souper Blog Hop, created to help promote Chrys Fey's mom's new book, Pea Soup Disaster. Participants will share their favorite soup recipe. I don't know about you, but I love soup! I make a lot of it, because you can throw so much good stuff into it and it tastes so yummy–especially on a cold winter day! I struggled to come up with my favorite, because there are so many good recipes. But I settled on loaded potato soup. How many of you are loaded potato fans? If you are, then you'll like this soup! Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
3 pounds russet potatoes, chopped
1 cup sour cream
3 cups shredded cheddar
4 scallions, sliced, for garnish

Directions:

Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, 6-8 minutes, remove to a plate. When cool, crumble and set aside for garnish.

 Add the onions and garlic to the pot, and cook in the bacon grease until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the flour and some salt and pepper, and stir until combined. Cook fro 3 minutes, so the raw flour tastes cooks out. Add the chicken broth and heavy cream, whisking to remove any flour lumps. Add the potatoes and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. With a potato masher, break up the cooked potatoes until it is a thick and chunky consistency. Whisk in sour cream and then the shredded cheddar, let it melt through. 

Serve garnished with crispy crumbled bacon and sliced scallions. 

(If you want to be a little more health-conscious, you can use bacon bits and just use vegetable/olive oil to cook the onions and garlic.)

What's your favorite soup?






BLURB: Gregory Green loves his mom’s pea soup, but when he eats it at school, all of his friends make fun of how it looks. He doesn’t think it looks like bugs, and it tastes good! Then at recess, his friends run from him, screaming, “He’s a monster!” Gregory doesn’t know why his friends are being mean until he sees his skin is green. The teasing gets worse until an unlikely friend comes to the rescue—his teddy bear, Sammy. Sammy usually only comes to life for Gregory and his family, but Sammy has an important lesson to teach Gregory and his classmates.

Available in Print:




ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Kaye got the idea for Pea Soup Disaster from her son who loved to eat her homemade pea soup. Pea Soup Disaster is the first of many fun stories featuring Gregory Green and his teddy bear, Sammy, as part of the Gregory Green Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Find Elaine:
Website / Instagram / Litsy - @ElaineKaye


Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Mad Scientist

When I wake up in the morning, I don't think about plutonium or nuclear reactors. I don't think about the inner workings of a battery, either. I wake up and think about making breakfast for my kids, and hope I can do it without spilling an entire jug of milk on the floor. 

My son, Bubba, on the other hand does think about plutonium, and radon, and nuclear fusion. In fact, he draws complicated diagrams of batteries and explains them to me, as I sit there in a complete state of grogginess.

Here was the latest diagram: 


This is a battery. Some kind of special one with a lead case so the radioactive material inside doesn't create a problem for its handler. The diagram on the left is something about how to make two parts come together to begin the reaction once the casing is secure. Do you understand? Me neither.  I thought he was probably coming up with this from the top of his head. Maybe it was some residual delirium from his recent bout with the flu.

But my husband took a look at it.  It is actually a viable concept for a real plutonium battery. (My husband is a mechanical genius, so he would know if Bubba was full of it.)

I don't know if my Mad Scientist son is going to get the parts and assemble this in our basement. But what I can tell you, is that if you see a mushroom cloud over Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter will be at my house!   

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Claw Master

My son, Bubba, is a lucky dude. Every time he goes to a place that has those machines where you operate a claw in hopes of snatching a stuffed animal or some other prize, he wins. I don't know how he does it. Must be a magic touch.

The other day, he went to a place called Dave and Busters. He had to try his luck at another claw machine. This one contained jewelry and watches. (I guess stuffed animals don't hold much appeal to him anymore, now that he's a teenager.)

He brought the claw down and snagged a lovely necklace. First try.


"Nice," I said. "What are you doing to do with it?"

"Keep it in a special place. And maybe eventually give it to somebody. Like maybe a girlfriend for Valentine's Day if I ever get one."

"Good thinking."

 Maybe he can win some stuffed animals, too. I'm sure his date would be thrilled!


Before I go, I want to let you know that I'm doing a Goodreads Giveaway for my book, Don't Feed the Elephant. It's for the Kindle version, and it's a chance to win one of 20 copies. Open to US residents only. If you're interested, you can enter here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Race Day

My son, Bubba and I decided to do the 5K Hot Chocolate Race in Atlanta this past Sunday. It sounded like a good idea. Especially since at the end of the run, they give finishers a big bowl and plate filled with rice crispy treats, marshmallows, a banana, chocolate, and of course, hot chocolate!

We had been training for about a month. We were in good shape (aside from blisters on my toes and a screwed up knee–neither of which I acquired from running).  On the morning of the big race, I woke up at 4:00 AM (we had to be there by 6:30 AM), and discovered it was raining. Hard. I groaned. Running in the rain was not something I wanted to do.

Then I looked at the thermometer. 35 Degrees Fahrenheit. Almost cold enough to snow. This is crazy, I thought.

My boy came downstairs.

"Dude," I said. "Take a look at the weather. Do you seriously want to do this?"

He poked his head outside. "Sure. It's not great, but it's no big deal."

Uh huh.

The weather forecast indicated that the rain was going to continue all day. Atlanta was under a weather advisory. I checked the race site. It was still on.

"Okay," I said. "We'll go see what's up. And maybe we can still get our hot chocolate. That's what we're going for, right?"

Long story short - the corral wait in the rain was an hour. The run was just over 35 minutes. It was the coldest, wettest running experience ever! And the hot chocolate wasn't hot. It was tepid.

"That was great!" Bubba said. "Can we do the 15K next year?"

Yeah, right!




Monday, January 29, 2018

Special Guest: Author, Deanie Humphrys-Dunne


Today I have a very special guest at my pad, children's author, Deanie Humphrys-Dunne. I've known Deanie for many years. She's a sweet, thoughtful person. I love her books because they are uplifting and give encouragement. The world needs more of that! Please welcome Deanie! 


Hi, Deanie!  So glad you could join us!

All of your books offer inspiration and life lessons. Your latest book, My Life at Sweetbriar, is about overcoming obstacles and persevering. Could you share some tips for how to remain positive in the face of adversity? How to keep going when things seem stacked against you?

First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me today, Sherry.  I love spending time with you.
When I get discouraged, things seem to be a bigger challenge than they actually are so I would say your problem could be the size of an anthill but when you’re thinking about it, the image you get is Pike’s Peak. Basically, try examining the issue from all sides. For example, when I was learning to jump horses, I’d often fall off two or three times a day. Some days it felt like I’d never stay on.  How could the problem be solved? I figured if I worked harder than other people, eventually I’d prevail. The other alternative was to quit and that wasn’t an option because then I’d surely fail and not reach my goal. 
Try to focus on the positive. We’ll use the jumping story again. If I normally fell off twice and progressed to only once a day, that was a positive step. My dad was a creative person so he’d find little ways to help. For instance, to help me keep my balance and also prevent pulling back on the reins, which made the horse uncomfortable, he put a strap around the horse’s neck so I could grab that while we were getting ready for the jump. It kept my hands in the right position and helped my balance a bit. We’d try to analyze why I fell off so we could remedy it. Most to the time I fell because my heels went back and I pitched forward. That was something I constantly tried to correct.
You could also divide the project into little parts. What if you were afraid of public speaking? Practice in front of your family or friends because you know they’ll encourage you. When the day comes to make your speech, look at one person in the audience that you know and pretend that’s the only one there.
Remember things are always changing. If you have a bad day, tomorrow is a new start. You have a chance to fix the mistakes you made yesterday.
Finally, imagine yourself having the result you want. The night before a horse show, I’d imagine taking the jumps perfectly. It helped keep me focused on my goals.

Those are great tips! I think it's important to learn from our mistakes and keep going. Keeping a positive outlook certainly helps.

What was one of the biggest challenges you've had to face, and how did you overcome it?
Perhaps the biggest thing was learning to walk after my surgery that re-positioned my femur bone. Metal and screws held the bone in place so I didn’t need to wear a cast for a year. After the surgery, everything felt different and I had to learn to use muscles that had never worked before. Walking felt different. I’m extremely fortunate my parents encouraged me to keep working until I felt more comfortable with walking.  As with other things, it took lots of practice. 😊

I can't even imagine having to go through that. Kudos to you for persevering!

Two of the horses in your story, Little Man and Peach, were very dear to you. Can you share any funny stories about either of them that weren't mentioned in your book?
Little Man was a naughty little pony. He was fuzzy and plump. He looked completely innocent. I thought he understood everything I said to him. In the book, My Life at Sweetbrier, I said I gave him sugar cubes hoping to improve his behavior. He loved getting into trouble. He snuck out gate of the riding ring once while I was on him before I even noticed what he had in mind. Probably the funny thing was I thought he understood everything I said to him.
Peach had another friend besides my sister Holly’s pony, Dark N Fancy. His name was Almost, but we called him Mosty for short. His owner’s name was Betty. If Betty and Mosty were ahead of Peach and me while we were on a trail ride, Peach would gallop until she could see him again. She seemed to miss him right away.  After that, she’d be calm. The two of them liked to look for escape routes to the apple orchard across the street from our farm.
Whenever we prepared Peach for a big show, we did the usual things like bathing her, and braiding her mane and tail. But Holly wanted her to have something unique to make Peach stand out. Holly used a comb to make checkered patterns on Peach’s rump.  
Here’s a funny story not related to Peach or Little Man that I could have put in the book. My mom took me for physical therapy three times a week. When I was about 5 years old, we were on our way to the therapy clinic. We passed an elegant stone church and Mom said, “That’s where Mommy and Daddy got married. I started crying. Of course, my mom asked what was wrong and I said, “Mommy, I’ll never forgive you. You didn’t invite us.” She laughed so hard she almost ran off the road and hit a tree.

It's funny how animals understand what we're talking about. My dog, Schultz is like that. He pretends he clueless, but that's only because he's trying to get away with something!

That's hilarious that you got mad at your mom for not inviting you to her wedding. I'm glad she didn't hit the tree!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Even though I liked writing since childhood, I never had the confidence to try it until 2009. At the time, I had an intuition to try writing about growing up at Sweetbrier. The feeling didn’t lessen, so I finally decided to give it a try. My dad always said when you’re afraid to do something, consider the worst thing that could happen. I figured if I wrote a book that wasn’t published, I’d only need to improve it and try submitting it again.

I'm glad you followed your feeling. Sometimes those feelings are guides to what we should be doing. Now we have some great books from you!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I think it’s important to follow your passion and use your natural skills. If you’d like to become an author, read as much as you can in your genre. Research publishing and decide it you’d like to self-publish or not. If you decide to become an author, let people know your book is coming out through social media. Finally, be sure to edit and revise your work until you feel it reflects your best effort. Don’t be discouraged by those who have negative comments. If becoming an author is your goal, go for it.

Revision is very important! Most of us don't write a perfect book on the first try. I think patience and persistence are key. 

Silly question:  If you could be one animal, what would it be and why?
Maybe I’d like to be a mixed-breed Pitbull who talks. I’d explain not to be afraid of my big head, because I have a good heart. We had a mixed breed Pitbull, Elliott, for 13.5 years. We rescued him and he was the best ever. Our sons chose him because they thought “He had character.” Elliott was at the pound for six months before we chose him. The people there said no one would even consider him once they saw the big head. We made him happy by putting him in some of my books. Someday I might write a picture book about Elliott.

Elliot is a cool character. I remember reading about him in one of your other books. I think it would be great to have a book about him. Maybe the theme could be not to judge someone by their appearance.

Thanks for joining us, Deanie. It's always great to chat with you!



My review of My Life at Sweetbriar:  5 Star  My Life at Sweetbrier, is author, Deanie Dunne's recounting of life at her childhood home–a horse farm in Connecticut. Deanie was born with cerebral palsy. For most people, that would be enough to deter them from ever riding a horse. But not for Deanie. Thanks to her father's "can do" philosophy, Deanie became a skilled rider, winning many riding competitions. It wasn't without challenges, though. Deanie shares the adversities she had to overcome and offers encouragement for others to do the same.

Written in a conversational style, readers can feel that Deanie is talking directly to them. Sprinkled throughout the book are photographs of Deanie as a young child and as a teenager with her horses. Young readers, ages 8-12, especially those who love horses, will enjoy this book. The message of perseverance even in the face of obstacles is an important one for everyone to learn. An inspiring book, highly recommended.

You can find the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.






              photo by Bob Moseder
Bio for Deanie Humphrys-Dunne
Deanie Humphrys-Dunne is an award-winning children’s book author with six books published at this time: My Life at Sweetbrier, Charlie the Horse, Charlene the Star, Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes, Charlene the Star and Bentley Bulldog and Tails of Sweetbrier.  All of her books offer positive messages for children. Her sister, Holly Humphrys-Bajaj, beautifully illustrates all of her fictional books and designs the covers. All books are available on Kindle and paperback.
 My Life at Sweetbrier is an inspirational award-winning autobiography about a little girl whose one desire was to become a champion equestrian, in spite of her handicap. This book is a revised, expanded version of her first book, Tails of Sweetbrier.
Deanie is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.  Her books have won a number of awards and recognition including her latest awards for My Life at Sweetbrier; The gold medal in the New Apple Book Awards, and the gold medal in the Mom’s Choice awards. Other awards are listed on Deanie’s website: www.childrensbookswithlifelessons.com/

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Grand Arrival

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for all of your support on the birthday of my latest picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant! Your well-wishes, purchases, shares, and reviews mean so much to me! (And also thanks to those who have followed my Amazon author page! You guys rock!)

Second, I'm very excited to announce that my first middle-grade book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China, will be released on September 4, 2018! Here's the cover:
 


Now for the story:

Sometimes I feel like a taxi driver. I drive my kids everywhere. When I have to pick them up, the deal is that I text them. It's just not cool for a mom to come to the door, ring the doorbell, and stand there waiting for a kid to get his/her stuff together. I've been banned from doing such a thing.

The other day, I drove my teenage son to one of his friend's house. When it was time to pick him up, I pulled in the driveway and turned my phone on to give him the text that I was there. As I was fiddling around with my phone, some neighborhood kids who were playing basketball on the street, did something to activate a car alarm.

BEEP...BEEP....BEEP!

I glanced in my rear view mirror. The kids kept playing while the horn kept honking.

I shrugged and continued to wait for my phone to get a connection. It took forever! Finally, when I was about to text my boy, I saw him come out the door.

He had a big grin on his face. "My friend thought it was you beeping, telling me to come out," he said when he got in the car. "We were watching football when we heard it . My friend said I needed to go because he figured you were pretty mad."

We both laughed.

But maybe instead of texting my arrival, I should just beep like a car alarm. That apparently gets kids' attention!
     

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Birthday and Off-roading Part 2

We have a birthday to celebrate at my pad! It's the birth of my new picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant!


Blurb:  People say you're not supposed to play with your food. But the adventurous little elephant in Don't Feed the Elephant never got the message! This charming children's story won't just entertain kids with its hilarious descriptions and zany main character. It will also educate them about the alphabet and help them learn the order of letters. As the elephant works his way through food stuffs, each new dish features a new letter of the alphabet. From animal crackers to zebra cakes, the elephant is enthusiastic to gobble everything up, even when it lands him in hot water.

Here are some sample illustrations:





It's available on Amazon as a Paperback book.

Also, my publisher for Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China (release date September 2018) asked that I promote my Amazon Author page. If you would please visit and "Follow," it would be much appreciated. Thanks!


Now for the story:

Some of you had asked that I share more about the return trip from my last hiking adventure. If you recall, my son, Bubba, and I hiked to see the Papermill Ruins.


It was a precarious journey, because a tree had fallen and blocked our path. We had to off-road it, wandering through the woods along the steep bank of a river. We weren't exactly sure how we'd make it back to the parking lot. Do you know why? Because I didn't know where the parking lot was. It was a wild guess. By the time we left the ruins, the sun was getting low in the sky. It would set in about an hour.

I looked around and listened. I heard cars. Civilization! We followed the river toward the sounds and arrived at a bridge.

"That's the bridge we drove over to get to the parking lot," I said. "We could probably follow this road. It's about a mile or two, I think. But'd we'd get there."

Bubba shrugged. "Sure, Mom. Whatever you think."

Then I thought some more. The road had no sidewalks. It was hilly. And there were lots of twists and turns. Probably not a great road to walk along, especially since it was getting dark.

I scanned the area. "There has to be a path along here somewhere."

Sure enough, there was. And it followed the direction of the road. "Let's take this. It'll be safer."

For a while, all was well. We were going in the direction we needed to go and made good progress. But then we saw the sign: "Closed for Re-vegetation."

Our trail was closed. I frowned. It was the middle of winter. What kind of re-vegetation could possibly be going on?  "This is brilliant," I said. "Now what?"

We spotted another trail to our left. It went further into the woods, away from the road. "I don't think we have many options here," I said. "Let's see where this goes."

It twisted and turned and finally came to a fork. I'm really bad at forks. Inevitably, I take the wrong one. There were no trail markers to point the direction, so I had to make a wild guess.  "I think we should go that way." I pointed to the right, because that made sense. We wandered that way for a while, but then it curved. It was heading in the wrong direction.

"Ugh!" I said. "This is ridiculous!"

Meanwhile, it was getting darker. I was worried. Would we ever make it back to the car? We could retrace our steps can find the road. But then it would be black outside.

To make a long story short we kept going on the path. Then  we came across some other hikers.

"Excuse me," I said. "Could you tell me how to get to the parking lot?" (Being a woman, I wasn't afraid to ask for directions!)

"Yes," they said. "We're going that way, too. Follow us."

They seemed harmless enough–two kids, a mom, and dad, and two dogs–so I figured it would be okay.

It was. We had to go on yet another trail, and another, but we finally made it back. And we did it before the sun completely set! 


 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Off-Roading

I like to hike. So does my son, Bubba. We often find ourselves in some rather interesting situations when we take a wrong turn, or the path abruptly ends. The last adventure involved a hike to see the Papermill ruins of Marietta, Georgia. I saw the hike listed in the local newspaper under fun outdoor things to do. It sounded interesting. So, I told Bubba, and he agreed to come. This was about 3:30 in the afternoon. Usually we don't go out that late, but I thought we'd be able to complete it in plenty of time before the sun went down.

When we got to the trail head, I looked at the map. The thing had numbers of points of interest. It also had some paths marked with solid lines and others marked with dotted lines. There was no legend to say what all these things represented.

I looked at the map and shook my head. "Dude, I have no idea which path to take. My guess is that we have to go to number 26 or 27. But I'm not sure."

Bubba shrugged. "Let's just follow everybody else. They're probably going to the ruins."

We did. But they weren't going to the ruins. About a mile in, I looked at another map. "Okay," I said. "We were here," I pointed to a number. "Now we're here." I pointed to another number. "We want to go here." Where we wanted to go was definitely not the direction we we headed.

"What does that mean?" Bubba asked.

"It means that if we keep going on this path, we're going to end up in Timbuktu. We'll be at least five miles away from the ruins."

We turned around.

When we came to another map, I looked at it. We had been on a solid-line path. This path was for bikers and hikers. (That's a whole story to itself.) The dotted lines, I ascertained, were for hikers only. I discovered that there was a footpath that led up to where we wanted to go. A shortcut.

"We're taking this path," I announced. I looked at the sky. The sun was getting lower. I only hoped we'd make it to our destination.

We climbed up steep hills and trekked along deep ravines. Coming across other maps, I knew we were going in the right direction.

Then we had a problem.  This was the problem:


A giant tree had fallen across our path. It had even crashed into the map sign, destroying it.

"Now what?" Bubba asked.

"I'm not going back," I said. "We've come too far." I pointed past the tree. "We have to go in that direction."

That's when the off-roading started. We found the river and climbed along its banks. It was precarious, but I figured the mill should be situated next to the river. We'd find it eventually. Sure enough, we did.

At first we saw this:


And the we saw this:


We had reached our destination!

(Going back was another story. It included paths closed for "revegetation." Somehow we managed to get back to our car before it was completely dark!) 

And one more thing:  Here is the cover reveal for my picture book, Don't Feed the Elephant!

Release date:  January 16, 2018.