Sunday, December 15, 2013

Starting the Colt is going to the printer, and the last-minute emails are flying back and forth between myself and my publisher, Janet Muirhead Hill, of Raven Publishing, as we make corrections and suggestions and critique each other's ideas. We both want everything to be just right. I am excited and stressed--so glad it's the weekend and not a hectic work day.

At the same time, marketing has already begun! We are offering a pre-publication ordering discount, so I've been designing mailings as well as changes and additions to my website. Because this is now my second time around, I have greater confidence about what I need to be doing. There is so much more to writing a book than just writing a book!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Galleys are the uncorrected preliminary version of a book that can be sent to reviewers a few months before the book actually comes out. (see The galleys of Starting the Colt have been printed and sent out to reviewers. In proofreading one last time (I think!), I managed to find a few things that needed fixing. We are getting close to publication! It was very exciting to receive my galley copies in the mail and see what my book will look like shortly.

What I found amazing in proofreading was that as many times as I have read through my story, I found it as hard to put down as if I'd never read it. My husband asked me one evening when we were going to eat dinner. I thought to myself, "Not now! I'm right at the good part--I have to keep reading!" Not like I didn't know what was going to happen, right? And yes, I did get up and start dinner...after just a few more minutes of reading.

It reminded me of the many times my mom scolded, "Jaaaaan-ice! Haven't you started on your chores yet?" And I would answer, "Oh, just let me finish this page" or chapter, or one more chapter, or however much I thought I could sneak in before she'd get after me again to do my homework or piano practice or my chore list taped on the refrigerator. Has my love of books been passed on to my kids and grandkids? You bet!

Monday, September 2, 2013

The good news: I finished the curriculum unit for Starting the Colt! A combination of hard work and fun, it could also be a slave driver, taking over my summer and pushing aside other things I wanted to do. But I had set a goal of finishing by the start of school, when I begin work of another sort, and there is satisfaction in reaching my goal. I also feel a burden has been lifted from my shoulders, freeing up my time for other things, or even, nothing! I try to keep projects from becoming my master, stealing my ability to relax and do what I want.

The bad news: Starting the Colt won't be out in paperback until early 2014. We tried to make 2013 work, but life just wouldn't cooperate. There was a chance it could happen late in the year, but I learned from my first book, The Orange Slipknot, that a late-in-the-year release has marketing disadvantages. Many lists, awards, reviewers, etc. will only accept books published in the current year, so a late release makes it difficult to take advantage of many of those possibilities. With subbing and teaching piano, I only have so much spare time to spend marketing, and I don't want to shoot myself in the foot. I believe it will pay off in the long run to be patient and make a wise marketing decision. If you just can't wait that long, the ebook is available on Smashwords and Kindle!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Some writing is hard work, but some is serendipity. Yesterday I started to create a curriculum unit activity for a science connection, then remembered that many years ago, I created something similar that is still in my old files. I pulled it out, spent the day revising it, and voila! Just what I needed!

One of the rules of writing is, "Write what you know and care about," so I started out years ago writing about Nevada, cowboying, and ag-related topics. Much of what I came up with in my early writing days never sold, but waited patiently for the right opportunity to jump out and find its niche. I love seeing how some of my original ideas, after aging a bit, found new angles and became part of The Orange Slipknot or Starting the Colt. As I recently read in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "there is an appointed time for everything."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The deeper I get into the curriculum unit I'm creating for Starting the Colt, the more fun I'm having. At first it was hard work to determine and formulate the right kinds of questions, but now, over half way through, the questions are becoming more obvious to me, as I find them building on earlier questions. For each chapter, there is a page of writing/discussion questions and journal prompts, then a vocabulary page.

I'm especially enjoying the vocabulary pages, because I find words interesting. In fact, I start with the vocabulary page, reading through the chapter looking for any words or phrases to focus on. I find that usually my list breaks down into two groups: horse or cowboy terminology, and interesting words. I don't start with the question page because that "seems" like harder work. But in the process of gathering up my vocabulary words, I "discover" the chapter questions without really having to work at it.

Vocabulary activities include glossary and dictionary, context clues, similes, idioms, slang, synonyms and antonyms, root words, origins, parts of speech, domain-specific language in several domains, etc. Right now I'm in the middle of an interesting rabbit trail that started with double-ought sized horseshoes and turned into a math connection page on ought/aught/nought/naught. Now I need to organize all that information and make it interactive.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing a curriculum unit, like writing a book, is hard work, but fun work! Word games, like crosswords, always fascinated me, as well as reading about origins of interesting words, phrases and idioms. This background gives me ideas for the vocabulary section of each chapter. Exploring idioms and opening up the world of cowboy slang to non-ranching kids is a challenge I really enjoy.

Having learned about the Common Core Standards and DOK levels, I'm coming at the chapter questions from a different angle than when I started the CU for The Orange Slipknot (before I revised it for the Standards). Instead of majoring in recall/retelling questions, I have almost none of those; the questions tend more in the direction of what you would discuss with a writer's group--just on a fourth grade level! Teachers want their students to learn how to think about literature. I am trying to help them understand how an author crafts a book--to talk about theme, plot development, character development, foreshadowing, etc.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

School has been out for a week so I'm on my summer schedule. I've made my list and checked it, actually I check it almost daily, working on the various projects on my summer list: yard, house, writing, grandkids, horses, etc. My main writing project for the summer is to complete the curriculum unit for Starting the Colt. I had several chapters done, or almost done, so the hardest part--getting started--is behind me.

For the last couple of years, I've been studying the Common Core Standards and rewriting the CU for The Orange Slipknot to align with them, since this is what teachers are now looking for. I have a much better idea of what is needed this time around, including less DOK 1 questions and more DOK 2 and 3 questions.

DOK = Depth of Knowledge. Level 1 is basic recall, or reciting facts. CC downplays an emphasis on this level and encourages deeper thinking. Level 2 requires more engagement with the material: infer, interpret, summarize, compare, etc. Level 3 involves a deeper level of thinking and reasoning; there may be more than one correct answer to these questions. Level 4 becomes an extended final assessment activity, designed around the "essential question" that introduces the entire unit. You can see how a background of working in the school system is an advantage when trying to craft a CU that will meet teachers' needs.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Starting the Colt e-book released! In fact it was released a week and a half ago, but I've been so busy--working, going out of town two weekends in a row, getting ready to go out of town, catching up at home after being out of town--that I never even thought to update my blog till today. 

When my publisher emailed me that the e-book was released, I had to think up some ways to publicize it, without actually having a book in my hands! A Facebook announcement was the obvious first choice. I quickly made a few last-minute changes to my website, including the addition of a page where website visitors could read the first chapter. 

Then I got busy with my computer and printer and created a flyer I could post on bulletin boards around town and on my two trips to visit family. For a template, I used a flyer from The Orange Slipknot, swapped out the cover photos and the pertinent information, and tweaked the size and location of my text boxes. I decided to add tear-off strips, formatted from my piano lesson flyers with tear-off strips, with each strip containing the title, my website, and the information "Smashwords/Amazon."

Finally, I created bookmarks, again using the template from the bookmarks I created for my first book. I printed them on photo paper and cut them apart, five on a page. Now I had something to hand to people I talked to. 

The paperback won't be out for a couple more months--should I contact the newspaper now or then? I decided I'd rather give the biggest publicity boost to the paperback, so I'll hold off on that. But I did write up a possible press release. 

As a substitute teacher, I've had fun sharing my publishing journey with the classes I've been in recently. I love to answer their questions, but my favorite comment was: "You don't look like an author." I laughed and agreed, and told them that actually, authors are just regular people, that happen to also write books.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring break was a nice chunk of time free of subbing to work seriously on my marketing plan for Starting the Colt. I consolidated notes and bookmarked websites into one page, sorted as to potential for reviews, sales, internet listings, awards, etc. Website changes involved hours of frustration due to lack of practice--my changes wouldn't come up right after I upload them. My typing is also slower and at times one-handed thanks to my wrist brace, which isn't much handier than the cast, but must be endured through summer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

As usual, I'm ashamed of how seldom I blog. As an introvert, I'm just not all that interested in keeping others updated on my sporadic writing life. But the last couple of months I've been preparing my talk and handout for the annual Nevada Reading Week Conference in Reno this Saturday. This year I'm not doing my usual presentation: "Nevada's Ranching History." I do love that topic and sharing my slideshow, but this year I am presenting something else I love talking about: "Writing for Children." We will look at how to get started, how to get published, and how to market your book after you get it published.

The release of Starting the Colt is only a few months away! Then it will be time for me to shift gears and get busy publicizing and marketing again. Things I learned and contacts I made the first time will make it easier the second time around. I've seen the sketch for the cover art and am anxious to see how that turns out.

Looking forward to getting this cast off my left arm--yes, I am one of the many unfortunates who fell on the ice last month, but I was klutzy enough to land on and fracture my wrist. I'm anxious to get back to my piano! My next project--the curriculum unit for Starting The Colt.