Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Camping with Toddlers: A How-Not-To Guide.


I hath forsaken this blog for quite some time, and all I can say for myself is #life. My hope is to slowly revive it from its state of withering frailty into something a bit more colorful. Unlike the flowers NOT blooming in my yard because of the week of 110' heat we just endured.

Seriously. That was just mean.

I know it's normal for the desert, BUT WE DON'T LIVE IN THE DESERT. We moved OUT of it for this very reason!

Anyway. Back to the topic at hand: Camping.

(No cringing!! Camping is not a four letter word!!)

I happen to love camping.

I mean, would you look at that campsite view!

I love being outside in general, really. Particularly in the mountains. The woodsmoke and pine. Poking at glowing embers. The dark sky and the countless stars. Shutting off the world, and just... being.

Ben and I used to camp a lot, but, well, the addition of children stifled that a bit. Plus, living in the desert for four years, camping just didn't have the same lure for me. I like to camp near (1) trees and (2) streams and (3) mountains.


I'm a spoiled California girl, what can I say?

So, now that we're back by the good ol' Sierras, and the boys are a little bit more... independent (i.e. I was PRETTY sure Brennan wouldn't spend the entire time eating dirt, which, thankfully, he didn't), we thought we'd give it a go. We went with some good friends of ours, with a big group from church. It was awesome for all sorts of reasons, but one of those reasons, which happens to be more important to me NOW than it ever was before, is food prep. A few in our church DID IT ALL! (they should be sainted.)

Cooking is the only snag for me with camping, because #dishes. I HATE DOING THEM. And who wants to deal with cooking and dishes after a day of wrestling with dirty toddlers, who are whiny and overtired because they're too excited to fall asleep at night, and then the dang crows laugh you awake at 5 AM?

Yeah, not feeling the cooking, people... (side note: a prime example on importance of commas.)

Having the cooking handled made ALLLLLLL the difference. We were able to just... enjoy the day, drink the coffee, see the sights. And in Yosemite, there are PLENTY.

We took the boys on a few hikes. I tried to keep my expectations realistic (No, Barbara, your boys are *still* probably too young to hike Half Dome... No, you can't do Cloud's Rest, either... Yes, sixteen miles is too much for a three and four year old). But three miles? WE CAN DO THREE MILES.

I bribed them with Werther's and Skittles and Twizzlers to keep them moving when ALL! THEY! WANTED! TO! DO! WAS! STOP!

It was really important to me that we hiked the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall (read: THEY WERE GOING TO DO IT EVEN IF I HAD TO DRAG THEM BY THEIR EARS). I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Mist Trail, because you're hiking up steps carved directly into the rock, right alongside a waterfall, whilst getting HOSED. It is SO COOL and SO HUGE and SO POWERFUL (like everything in Yosemite). Really, I think that's part of the reason I love being in the mountains. Nothing makes me appreciate God's power more than seeing the magnificent landscape He's created. Yosemite is awe-inspiring.

The drought has kept Vernal Fall to a sad trickle for too many years, and there was nothing remotely misty about the Mist Trail. The name was almost a mockery. But this year - a year of 170% snowpack - it MORE than earned its name. Ben ended up having to carry Brennan on the uphills, but I'm happy to report that the boys made it - 3+ miles! - and we were all properly soaked by the end!

VERNAL FALL: It's hard to see just how WET everything is, but that is all spray! If you look closely, you can see people in ponchos, upper right.

Another side trip I've always wanted to do, but we've never before stayed in Yosemite long enough to do it, was Glacier Point. It's got incredible views of Half Dome and the Valley. I mean, it's kind of impossible to appreciate the sight of Half Dome when you're STANDING ON TOP OF IT. (There's a metaphor in there somewhere...)

Someone told us to try Sentinel Dome, which is a "short" hike off the road to Glacier Point, so we did that instead.

I have learned that words like "short" have a different meaning when you have toddlers.

The boys weren't enthused about a second day in a row of hiking. (No one wanted to hold my hand by the end of it. I can't blame them. I only walk at one pace. It's hereditary.)

Me and Brennan

My boys shed their share of tears, and I ran out of candy too soon, but they made it. THE VIEWS, though! So worth it! Hopefully, when they're older, they'll agree with me...

There ARE showers in the Valley, for those of you who MUST. SHOWER. At $5 per person, they're pretty pricey. The Yosemite Lodge pool was offering a free swim, so we opted for that instead. Plus! Views of Yosemite Falls while you're swimming! ...Except right before we left, someone pooped in the pool (eeeeeeeeeeeewwww), so we ended up having to shower anyway.

Like I said: I LOVE camping, and camping with the kiddos is a completely new experience. Before, when Ben and I would camp, it was more for the purpose of hiking. Pushing ourselves physically, conquering some new height, reaching a vantage we had to earn.

That's changed, obviously. It's HAD to, but I find myself loving the other parts. The simpler parts. Just getting the boys outside, letting them play in a stream for hours, helping them explore the incredible world God's made, and teaching them things like how to roast a marshmallow (and try not to get stressed by all the STICKY.) Being together WITHOUT the daily chaos and noise. WITHOUT all the things that demand our attention. Remembering what's important. (like sleep, haha)

Inside our ten-person tent, aka The Taj.

Speaking of important, when I asked Brahm what his favorite part about the trip was, he quickly replied with, "Wyatt and Everett!" (his friends)

Sometimes I feel like my four year old has a better grasp on priorities than I do.

Where the Wild Things are...
Briana, and a cup of liquid sanity.

I'll end with this: After four days and three nights of camping, I tucked Brahm into his own bed and asked:

Me: Did you like sleeping in the sleeping bag in the tent?
Brahm: *thinking* *nods* Yeah, but... *hesitates* There are so many people in the tent. I like sleeping in my bed. There are not so many people in my bed.

I hear ya, kid. No matter where you go or what you do, it's ALWAYS good to be home.

I'd LOVE to hear YOUR camping stories!!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Guest Post: When Rating out of Ten Just Ain’t Good Enough: A Harry Potter Scale of Emotion.

By Kelly St. Clare

There are ocassions where 100%, 10 out of 10, or heck - just putting a number on something - isn’t enough to describe what you feel…Especially if you happen to be a Harry Potter fan. After many sleepless nights, I have taken it upon myself to rectify this pertinent, yet catastrophic issue by creating the emotion scale below. I hope it helps you to express those feels more adequately.

1) When your heartbreak is between one and Dobby dying.

2) When the degree of pain is equivalent to possession by Voldemort.

3) When your luck blows past 10 out of 10 and becomes Felix Felicis out of Felix Felicis.

4) When you lay down the law somewhere between Hagrid and Umbridge.

5) When your relief is at ‘Finding-Ravenclaw’s-Damn-Diadem’ percent.

6) When you love someone between zero and Romione.

7) When you get a promotion at work, and your life = butterbeer.

8) When you’re Cho Chang obsessed with your crush.

9) When your surprise reaches level: I didn’t put my name in the triwizard cup.

10) And when you “just can’t even - because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Kelly St. Clare is the YA Fantasy Author of The Tainted Accords. She has an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out 5 Things Every Bookworm Loves to Hate.

You can check out her novels here.

Friday, May 1, 2015


The fourth and final book in my Pandoran Series, Heir of Pendel, is out today!

You can purchase and read the ebook now HERE.

OR for those of you who prefer holding a physical book in your hands, you can purchase the paperback HERE.

Amazon hasn't linked the links yet, but that should happen in the next couple of days.

It's very bittersweet drawing this series to a close. I'm going to miss so many of these characters (Thad). They've been with me through a lot of life and change, and I'm sad to part ways with them. I suppose they're never really gone, but I will miss our daily chats - er arguments. (SIDE NOTE: Imaginary friends don't succumb to death threats. In fact, death threats just enable them to be more unruly.)

And so many of you have been so supportive and enthusiastic with each and every installment. I can't thank you enough. That support gave me the courage and determination to keep fighting. Now, it gives me the courage to keep going. And I am. So whilst you are reading this last installment, I shall get back to working on my next series. :D

Happy Reading, Everyone!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Launch Party for Heir of Pendel!

Hey, everyone!

As promised, here's the info for Heir of Pendel's launch party *happy dance*:

(1) WHERE - ONLINE! Join us on Facebook HERE (make sure to actually click "join" to join the event)

(2) WHEN - Thursday, APRIL 30th @ 5-7PM PST. Yes, that's the night before Heir of Pendel is released.

(3) WHAT TO BRING - You! For those of you who weren't at the last one, know that all you have to do is be online/on the event page during the WHEN. That way, you won't miss the fun Q&As, contests, and giveaways posts.

See you there...can't wait!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Little Bit of Books, a Little Bit of Life...

It's a sad day when you log on to blogger and realize YOU HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO IT IN THREE MONTHS.


I put my head down to work, work, work, paused to look up and it was MARCH. HOW. Anyway, I suppose the plus side of not speaking to blogger for three months is that there are LOTS of things to share! On to those things...

1.  Heir of Pendel is scheduled for release MAY 1, 2015, and you can pre-order her HERE!

How do I feel? About like this...


I can't believe it, guys. Seriously. After seven years of being in Gaia, I'm about to say farewell to her. It's very bittersweet. Drawing things to a close has been both satisfying and...sad. These characters have been with me through so many huge life changes (ie a new job, a new career, a move to another state, the addition of TWO BABIES...), and it feels very strange closing this particular chapter (no pun intended). It also feels very symbolic. Because we're about to move again, back to northern California. Which brings me to point...

2.  Handsome Hubs is graduating dental school this May!

My loves.
I am so, SO proud of him, and very excited to start this new chapter. Me, incessant heat, an environmental palate of sepia tones, and prickly things don't gel. That being said, I'm VERY sad to be moving away from my dearest friend, Jenny. While I know modern technology allows for things like FaceTime, nothing beats those last minute outings (or in-ings, as we would have it). I'm dreading having to retrain my brain that she will not, in fact, be able to come over in ten minutes. :-(

3.  In light of the closing of this "phase" and the beginning of a new one, it would only make sense for me to start working on a new project. AND I AM! I'm switching gears with this one; it's a YA scifi. I'm picking at my science roots, and I'm having so much fun exploring a host of new characters and settings. I'm also really enjoying the fact that I can take my time. Once you publish a book in a series, it's like the clock is always ticking for the next book. They're not just YOUR friends anymore. You have to SHARE them, and other people have opinions and expectations of them, too. Which is great - don't get me wrong! But it's also nice not having some of that added pressure right now. Still, I don't "relax" very well (what does that word mean, anyway?), and will probably have some news on the scifi front by fall. AFTER we're all moved and settled.


4.  I'm giving away THREE, signed ARC copies of Heir of Pendel next month. If you're interested, make sure you're on my email list (*SIGN UP HERE) for the link to the Rafflecopter, which I'll be sending out in a week or so. Also...

5.  On HoP's release day, we'll be having an online launch party (WOOO!), where more books and swag will be given away. I'll give you the specs once I know them. Stay tuned!

6.  That same Handsome Hubs was in another hilarious parody video with some fellow friends/dentalschoolmates. ENJOY!...

PlaqueStreetBoys: I Have a Cavity (I Want It That Way Parody)

And here's a pic of some of the Order of the Phoenix gals (including me), post Color Run...

(From left to right: me, Lauren, Jenny, and Erin)
It was a warm one, but we survived. Not sure about our lungs, though. (If you're wondering about Order of the Phoenix, it's the name of our book club. Yes, we had Harry Potter paraphernalia glued to our tutus. Yes, we know we're dorks.)

Hope you guys are having a fabulous weekend!...I'm going to get back to writing now...


Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

So, I'm a little late for the first and very...punctual for the latter. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, nonetheless! Ours was very nice and quiet. We stayed local this year, and opted NOT to make the 13 hour drive to northern California with two babies and a dog, tempting as it was. Can't believe it's our last Christmas in the desert!

Anyway, a few updates on the literary front. First, is that Heir of Pendel, book four in my Pandoran series, has a cover (and I LOVE IT). Some of you have already seen it, but for those who haven't, HERE SHE BE:

Second, is that I have OFFICIALLY handed her guts (aka the story) to my crit partners and betas! No one could be more excited about this than I am, because I get to take the month of January OFF. After working on this story almost every day for a year (and having a baby in the middle of that year), I am definitely looking forward to a respite, short as it is.

I'm right on track to having HoP out in May. When the pre-order is available, I'll let you all know. Right now, HoP comes in at just under 200K words, which is roughly DOUBLE the length of Gaia's Secret. So. Hope you're happy. :D

And now I shall occupy myself with some reading and video games (specifically Kingdoms of Amalur and Dragon Age: Inquisition - MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!!!), and then probably pay some much-needed attention to my very patient and loving husband (who I believe is a superhero in disguise).


P.S. I listen to a lot of music while drafting each story, because music brings me more inspiration than anything else. If there was a piece that could signify the end of HoP, it would be this:

Hans Zimmer - Time

Hans Zimmer is my fave. I listen to him the most.

**Sign up HERE to receive exclusive content for Heir of Pendel (A Pandoran Novel, #4)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Q&A: Heir of Pendel and a Bit About Writing

I get lots of questions about my books and writing in general, so here's a post addressing those topics. Thanks to those of you who submitted questions!

How long does it take to write a book?

As long as it takes! Lame answer, I know. But really. It depends on the person and the book. I've gotten faster, the more I've written, but then my stories seem to grow with each installment, which ends up taking more time anyway. It took me about three years to write Gaia's Secret and only about six months to write Keeper's. Breath of Dragons ended up 40% longer, and it took me almost a year (plus I had a baby in the middle of it). This last one (Heir of Pendel) is quite beefy and is the longest by far, at a whopping 161K words. (Also had a baby in the middle of this one.) So, yeah. It depends on your speed as a writer and the length and content of your book.

Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre?

Because it's my favorite one to read! That's not to say I won't deviate...

How do you write a book? 

Oh, gosh. Well, there are entire books on this subject, but!...for the sake of this blog post, I will keep it short. It really depends on the person. Writers seem to fall into one of two camps: pantsters or outliners. I fall into the latter.

Pantsters may or may not have a plan. They might see a character or a setting or a plot idea in their mind, and then they just start writing, laying out the story as they go. That stresses me out. I just...I can't even. I have to have a plan, so I outline. Extensively. This would stress out my dear pantster, because they would say that outlining a story before-hand steals the magic of journey. Well, I can't relax and enjoy the journey if I don't know where I'm headed. Is one method better than the other? No. You have to go with whichever method works for you. Maybe it's some really delicate combo of the two with a sprinkling of pixie dust. What matters is that it works for YOU and gets you to a completed draft, which is the hard part.

This isn't to say that my stories end up EXACTLY as I've outlined them. They usually don't. I write my (exhaustive) outline, and then use my first draft to see which parts of my outline do or don't work. I like to keep my outlines fluid, so that if I'm struck by sudden inspiration, I have the power to keep writing in that direction.

But writing is more editing than anything. I write out a draft, and spend the rest of the time rewriting and fixing it.

How do you keep your thoughts organized with four books in a series?

How, indeed? Haha. It's tough! And with each book, it gets harder because there are that many more elements to keep organized in my head. What's saved me with this last book has been my writing software. It's been a great place for me to keep all my made-up things stored for quick and easy reference. Before that, I had multiple word doc's with lists of everything I'd made up - organization is key! And my critique partners and beta readers are awesome for pointing out things I've forgotten or accidentally contradicted. (You geniuses, you!)

Do some of your characters relate to people you know?

Yes! Except I'm not saying who :D We have to draw our inspiration from somewhere! So far, I don't have any one character that is an exact copy of someone I know, but I do steal personality traits and quirks from those around me to implement in my characters. Some are more obvious than others. There's a new character in HoP who is probably the closest copy I've ever made to someone from my real world. Sometimes I steal quotes, too, and my uncle is always claiming copyright infringement.

Do some of the instances in your books come from your own life experiences?

All my life experiences bleed into my stories in one way shape or form. We can't help it. We cast everything we write in the light of our worldview. But are there any specific instances? Eh. There are little things, like Daria is impervious to boiling liquids, and so am I. Much of the trekking through wilderness I write about comes from my own love and experiences hiking and traveling, so I definitely draw upon those. Oh, and dragons. I ride them in my spare time. Definitely.

What made you decide to start writing books?

I loved reading them so much I decided to start writing my own, and it was love at first...paragraph?

What's your biggest challenge with the writing process?

Self-doubt. Hands down. I try repeating the mantra, "artist first, critic later," but some days it's just hard. Some days those voices pummel you over the head with "this is terrible" or "you're in way over your head" or "no one really cares" or "the dog could write this better." It goes kinda like this:


As if wrestling with your own demons (or hair) isn't enough, there's the world beyond. You know not everyone is going to like your book(s). Some people hate cookie dough. I don't understand it, but it's true. But the internet has made it so easy for people to hide behind walls of data and code and just...be, well, mean, like there's not really a person on the other side of that cover. It doesn't seem to matter how many good things you hear, because the equation goes something like this:

1,345,671,312 good comments + 1 negative comment = 1 negative, very terrible comment

It's some mathematical anomaly I just can't seem to figure out. Writing is hard enough without all that. So take a moment to thank your favorite authors. (And you'll almost always hear back!)

What is Indie Publishing and why did you do it?

This is another topic with oodles of information circulating out there. What it boils down to is this: There are two routes for publishing. Traditional Publishing and Indie Publishing (aka Self Publishing). Tradition publishing means you've probably gotten yourself a literary agent, who then shopped your book to a major publishing house, like Simon and Schuster or Random House, etc., and then THEY sell your books. Indie Publishing means you handle everything yourself. But that doesn't mean you do everything yourself.

I like to think of it like building a house. I could hire a contractor (traditional) or I could contract everything on my own (indie). Indie/Self-pub has gotten a bad rap in the past because what makes it great is also what makes it terrible: Anyone can publish a book. Yes, anyone. So, you get a wide spread from the really great to the really terrible. (For that matter, there are some pretty bad books that get published traditionally, but you can at least expect the level of writing to be above a certain threshold...)

Indie has risen leaps and bounds over the past decade due to the surge in ebook popularity and the option of Print-on-Demand (POD). Authors no longer NEED a traditional publishing house to build a platform to sell their books; authors can use the internet to connect with readers and sell on major websites, like Amazon. Also, because of POD, Indie authors don't need to buy 2,039,403,298 copies of their own books to sell them. Createspace, a division of Amazon, prints them as they're purchased. Genius.

I chose to go the "indie" route because I wanted to have the ultimate say in what I did as an artist. Granted, I still have a professional team around me. I have critique partners and beta readers and an editor and cover artist who are all BRILLIANT. The difference is that  _I_  got to pick them. That's not to say I would never try the traditional route. I believe both routes have a lot of very different and very good things to offer, and I've enjoyed this crazy indie road every step of the way!

Now for some actual book questions...

Now that Daria and Alex are separated, how will we get updates on both sides of the story?

Good question! Heir of Pendel will alternate between Daria and Alex's POV, with a few interjections from Stefan. You wanted more from Alex? More than half the book takes place is in his head. :D For the record, it took him awhile to open up to me. He likes to keep his cards close.

Will there be lots of Thad in Heir of Pendel?

Yes, though Thad would probably argue there's not nearly enough. (I honestly don't think he'll be satisfied until he gets a memoir.)

Will we get to see more dragons? And what drew you to dragons?

Absolutely. As far as what drew me to them, I've always been intrigued by dragons and books about dragons. There's something just so...magical about them. And terrifying. It was Skyrim that ultimately pushed me over the edge, though. By the way, Skyrim is the greatest game ever. Who knew you could have that much fun making venison stew???

Does Stefan know that his sister has gone to marry Danton?

Not at the end of BoD, but he finds out in HoP.

Do you see Alex and Daria living in the real world?

That's a great question. :D

Who are Vera's parents, and why did Mercedes take her in?

There's a short answer to this in Breath of Dragons. Vera's parents died in service to Mercedes when Vera was very young, and as an honor to them, Mercedes adopted Vera, though I use "adopt" loosely. There will be more background on Vera in HoP.

What was your inspiration for Gesh?

For Gesh, I knew I wanted something tropical, like a natural spa. There'd been so much dreary cold and winter, I needed to thaw. There isn't any one thing that inspired Gesh, though. It's mostly a culmination of things I love. For instance: the Roman Pool at Hearst Castle in Central California inspired the baths in Gesh. If you've never heard of Hearst castle, or its Roman Pool, here you go and you're welcome:

Oh, and this picture:

Fantasia's Night on Bald Mountain inspired the emergence of the white dragon. The rest, I just had a lot of fun with while trying to make the setting as warm and romantic as I possibly could, so that Gesh could serve as a kind of respite for them.

Will Daria really wear red to her wedding, and will Alex rush in and declare his love? (because he seriously needs to lighten up a little)

Haha! As for the first part, I can't really answer that without, you know, the usual SPOILS, and Alex...well, he's rushing around a lot, lately. He's learning a lot about himself, too. How's that for an answer?

When will Heir of Pendel be released?

The question I hear the most. I have some good and bad news is. The bad news is that it will not be released in January, as I'd hoped. It's looking more like summer of 2015. But the good news is that the reason it's taking longer is because the story is so much longer. If you consider that good news. :D I'll keep you posted if it changes. I have the best husband in the entire world, and he was off last week and let me run off to a coffee shop for a few hours every day while he watched the kids, and I was able to wrap up this monster draft! Which means I will now be editing and editing and editing some more.

If I haven't told you guys lately, I love you...thanks so much for caring and sending your enthusiasm my way while I work hard to finish this series!

Oh, and don't forget...if you want to receive updates, discounts, and exclusive content for my books, join my email list HERE.


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