Mama Diaries

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Present for the German Shredder

First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season.

If you recall, a few weeks ago, our hundred pound German Shepherd, Schultz, found a box and had a great time playing with it. Many of you commented that we should give Schultz a box for Christmas. Well, we took your advice and did just that.

We gave him a box that was almost as big as he is, and then took him outside and let him do whatever he wanted. Let me tell you, the dog had a blast!   He began by ripping down the sides. He clamped on to the box with his big mouth and shook his head ferociously. He threw it into the air. My husband caught it and held it high above the dog. Schultz jumped up and grabbed it. He tore it some more and pranced around the yard with a piece in his mouth.

This little charade went on for about twenty minutes. By the time Schultz was done, the box was completely ripped apart in very small pieces.

My husband picked up the pieces and dumped them into our recycle bin. "Thanks, Schultz!" he said. "Now I don't have to cut up the box."

It's good to have a German Shredder!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Attack of the Cookie Monsters

'Tis the season for baking Christmas cookies. I've been in full swing at my pad, making all sorts of delightful confections. This has not gone unnoticed by the cookie monsters. They lurk in shadowy places, waiting for me to put the cookies in tins and leave them unattended.

The first cookie monster attack occurred about a week ago. I had baked a batch of my famous chocolate chip cookies. (I only bake this recipe at Christmas because they're so decadent.)  The recipe yielded 60 cookies. I placed the cookies in tins, and hid most of them. Unfortunately, it's a little tough to hide that many cookies. One tin was not concealed well enough. Sure enough, the cookie monsters struck. The next morning, the tin was not in its place. When I opened it, the cookies were missing. And the little monsters didn't even leave a thank you note.

I was determined not to let this happen again. I baked a batch of different cookies while the monsters were out. I put them in tins and hid them in the cold basement. I figured they'd be safe there. Unfortunately, the smell of cookies lingered far longer than I had anticipated. As soon as the monsters returned, they smelled cookies.

"Where are they?" the biggest monster asked.

I scowled. "I'm not telling."

"Oh, yeah?" The biggest monster grinned. "Come on," he called to the little monsters. "Let's go find the cookies!"

Their noses led them right to the stash. With a look of triumph, they opened the lid and started munching.

Next year, I'm buying a cookie safe, and locking it down. I've had enough of these cookie monster attacks!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

Happy 1st book birthday to THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW! It's been a year since the mystery of the Begonia House was revealed to the world, and now the paperback will be available January 3rd, 2017. The new cover stays true to Fairday's snazzy style, sprinkling in a few added charms. Can you spot the differences from the hardcover? ;) 

Catch the book trailer to find out about the mystery...

Planning to pick up the paperback? Pre-order a copy and you could win a $50 VISA card to treat yourself after the holidays. Contest is open to all! For more details on how to enter, click here.

For more information about the book, visit the DMS at

The Process of Publishing a Book
By Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson

Be ready to put forth a lot of effort!

When we started the publishing process we had no idea what we were getting into. Our book was written, but what were the next steps after having it edited and “ready to go”? We learned a lot along the way, and we'll share some of the highlights here. 

Stephanie Robinson, Unicorn Writers' Conference
1. If you want to write books, start going to writers’ conferences. We gained something from every one we attended, and it’s also awesome to be surrounded by so many people who share your passion for writing. Very inspirational!

2. If you decide to go the traditional route, it is important to research the agents you would like to query. You want to make sure the person representing your book loves it too! Be patient. After you write your query and send it off- you’ll have to wait for 1-3 months before you hear back about whether they would like to pass, see a partial manuscript, or read the whole manuscript. During this time- keep writing. Work on your next book!

3. Once you connect with the right agent, you will sign a contract with them. Read it over carefully and check it with other professionals before you sign your name. Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to and what they will do for you. We were thrilled to sign our contract with Talcott Notch Literary Agency, but we’ve heard nightmare stories from friends who had contracts that weren’t acceptable.

Gina Panettieri, Talcott Notch Literary

4. Your agent will start querying editors. After you’ve found the right agent, they will know what to do during this process and will check in with you to let you know where and when they are sending your work. When you hear back from editors, you will typically receive general remarks that you’ll need to consider. Remember, reading is subjective and even JK Rowling was rejected before her first Harry Potter book was published.

Signed contract with Delacorte Press
5.  When you sign with an editor you will most likely do a happy dance and run around screaming, like we did. Depending on the size of the publishing company the time frame to begin edits will vary. We signed our contract in October, but didn’t begin working on edits until March. The editing continues as the art department works on illustrations and cover art for the book. Once all the pieces are in place, the book is printed as an ARC- advanced reader copy.
6. ARCs have errors and the publishing company is working to fix them, but time is limited to get them done and errors cost money to fix. We read through our ARCs and made a list of all the mistakes we found. We were able to fix one of them because it isn’t easy to fix them at this stage, but luckily the editors had already fixed the other mistakes we had found (though we didn’t know for sure until the book was out).   

7. After the ARCs you will keep working on your other writing while you wait for trade reviews to come in. Ours came a few months before the book was out.

8. Release day! You'll be a bundle of nerves seeing your book out in the world. It's exciting, but you may feel a little vulnerable. Make sure to celebrate and enjoy the moment!
Voila! The finished product.
If you decide to publish traditionally, take your work seriously and protect your creative space. You are your own best advocate, so believe in yourself and fear not the unexpected! ;)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mama's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Let me tell you about my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Which was actually kind of funny, in a weird sort of way.

Georgia, the fine state in which I live, had experienced a drought. We had no rain for a couple of months. Well, that all changed on the day my son and I were scheduled to go Christmas caroling with a nice group from church. Of course, on that day, the heavens opened, and the rain came down. Mama got soaked. Did I mention it was cold?

Then, I came home (still wet and cold) and did some laundry. Except I had a little problem. Somebody had lost the cap to the laundry detergent. You may or may not be familiar with how the mega-sized liquid detergent bottles work. There are actually two spouts. One is a spigot, where you press a button and detergent flows out, and the other is the cap, where you can pour it out. Since my washing machine is a tall, super high power thing, it's much easier to use the spigot. Which I did. But I didn't notice that the cap was missing on the other opening. Guess what happened?  As I used the spigot, I tilted the container. As I did, liquid detergent poured out of the top, onto my head, and on my clothes.

So now, I was cold, wet, and covered in detergent.

But that's not all.

I went down to the kitchen to pack my kids' lunches for school. As I reached for the sandwich bags, which were on a very high shelf in the pantry, I knocked something over. A glass bottle of shrimp cocktail sauce. It splattered on the floor, breaking in a million pieces, covering me, the cabinet, and the floor with red goop.

All I could think was, why?   Why couldn't the shrimp cocktail sauce have fallen first? And then the detergent, and then the cold rain. At least I would have been clean. But no. I had to end my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day  as a strange-smelling, cold, grouchy, irritated catastrophe.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Question of the Month, and The Dog and the Box

It's time for Question of the Month, hosted by Michael D'Agostino. And this month I'm not late!
The question is, "What does your retirement look like?"

Retirement? Me retire? I don't think so. I love teaching music and performing, so unless something happens and I'm no longer able to do it, I plan to keep working until I die. But if I were to slow down a little, I'd like to spend time travelling and seeing more of the world. My plan is to visit every continent (including the North and South Poles). I don't know if that's at all realistic, but it's good to dream. I also want to visit all fifty states. I've made a good dent in that, but I still haven't seen a lot of western states, Alaska, or Hawaii.  What I don't see myself doing, is sitting in a chair watching TV or staring out a window. There's so much to see, so much to do, and so much to learn, that I think I'm just going to run out of time to do it all.

What about you? What does your retirement look like?

Now for the story: We all know how much kids like playing with boxes. But did you know that dogs like playing with them, too? 

An empty box was sitting on our living room floor. Our hundred pound German Shepherd, Schultz, decided he was going to have a little fun with it. He grabbed the box in his big mouth and flipped it over his head. Then he ran around, bumping into just about everything in the room.

My kids laughed. I shook my head. "Schultz, you big idiot. You're going to hurt yourself!"

He gave himself a shake, and the box flew off.

I thought that was the end of it. But no. Apparently, Schultz enjoyed having a box on his head. He grabbed the thing, flipped it over his head, and ran around, again.

This continued for about ten minutes. Finally, he shook the box off, gave it a big sniff, and trotted off. What a goof ball!

(I'm wondering what Schultz would do with some crayons and markers and that box!)