Thursday, May 28, 2015

catching up with some school visits: Chinese New Year Celebration!

So, while I was taking a hiatus from this blog, I was still traveling and visiting schools. There were so many amazing ones that I feel obligated to share about them, even though it is rather belated.

For example, all the way back in February, I celebrated the Lunar New Year like this:

First, Chinese Spring Greetings met me at the door:

And I did my thing with some cute students, seeing different age levels a time:

look how short my hair was! I haven't gone for a haircut since it was first cut because of the novel. You know how athletes sometimes have "playoff beards?" I have finish-the-novel hair. 

But after I finished, ALL the students started to stream in--each holding special projects they had done inspired by my books:

I thought this was especially clever--a dragon noisemaker!
 Students made dragons out of paper cups and then taped streamers to one end and cut a hole in the other. When they shouted in the hole of the cup, the streamer flew out.

Chinese rattle drums!
paper lanterns

And why were the all there? Why to see the dragon, of course:

each student made their part of the dragon!

It was an awesome dragon parade!


And a great way to start the Lunar New Year!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

catching up with the garden

We started the garden so early this spring that Rain Dragon was still bundled up when we planted the seeds:

So, for what seemed a long time, we seemed to have more of a windspinner garden than anything else:

But, finally, things began to sprout:

And now, they are starting to grow:

Monday, May 25, 2015

strawberry ducks

Hello all! Since I am awaiting revision comments, I have returned to the blog! Yay! Of course, I might have to disappear again once I start revising, but in the meantime...let me tell you about strawberry ducks:

I made these for Rain Dragon's pre-school birthday celebration. The school discourages excess sweets, so these seems like a good way to make the day special. They are super easy to make as well as super cute! All  you need are:

a melon ball spoon
a couple apples
lemon juice
tiny round sprinkles
heart shapes sprinkles (I couldn't find any so I used star shaped ones and had to make them triangular)

and this video:

They called them "Strawberry men" but Rain Dragon insisted that our were ducks. 

They used chocolate for the eyes, but I used sprinkles because I was too lazy to melt chocolate, etc. If I were to do it again, I'd use tweezers to put in the sprinkle eyes because my damp hands made some of the color of the sprinkles run. And I cut off the bottoms to make sure they all sat up, too. So the ones in the video are much cuter!

but mine are still cute, though, right?

But, they were eaten all up so I guess Rain Dragon and her friend didn't mind!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

writing retreat

Hello! Remember me?

I am relieved to say that the first draft of my novel is now with my editor! Yes, the first step in the long publishing process has begun, but "Every journey must begin with a first step," is how the Chinese proverb goes, right?

But getting to that first step was pretty hard! After missing, um, three years of deadlines I was finally determined to make this last one. However, as I was nearing the end,  I needed huge, extended chunks of uninterrupted time and that is something I can't get at home, so I was starting to feel a bit desperate.

And that is where my good friend and fellow author Libby Koponen stepped in. Offering me her spare room in her place by the sea (very apropos for my book),  we created our own two-person writing retreat.

the view from my borrowed writing desk!

Libby was a fabulous hostess (as she always is):

Fresh tea every couple of hours and a pajama dress code!

And we both got a lot of writing done! I worked from the wee hours of the morning to the wee hours at night--I slept less than when Rain Dragon was a baby! But, (as you know, but I must repeat it because I am a bit disbelieving) I finished my first draft!

I watched the sun rise!
It went so well that we are talking about running real writing retreats, offering it to other authors besides ourselves. I think it would be great, don't you?

But in the meantime, I am just thankful that I had this one!

two writers in our work uniforms!

Monday, May 11, 2015

and this is three!

So, the novel took a back seat this weekend so that we could decorate the yard like this:

Because it was Rain Dragon's birthday!

We had another birthday red hunt, this time making sure all the eggs were red so that the connection to the Chinese tradition was a little more direct (in Chinese tradition, red eggs are used to celebrate a child's birthday--the red egg hunt is our own personal take one it!). Even so, it was not very traditional--but the Rain Dragon's friends didn't seem to mind.

The hardest part was holding back the crowd:

On your mark, get set, GO!

The yard was in much better shape this year and the weather was cooperative, so I think it  was a successful hunt!

at least it was for Rain Dragon:

Also, this year instead of trying to do the cake last minute, we assembled it with pre-made fondant decorations and turned everyone's mouth's blue:

Rain Dragon loves planets and ducks!

which might have been what Rain Dragon wished for:


Happy 3rd Birthday, Rain Dragon! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

nose to the grindstone

revising the first draft of the new novel!!

Recently, I've come up for air to attend events like the Virginia Hamilton Conference and the Richland Library's Augusta Baker's Dozen Storytelling Celebration. It's been great (thank you to all the came! So fun to meet all of you!) but it's back to work I go! I miss writing regularly here at my blog, but I hope to be back soon! I'm on the first revision on the first draft of the new novel, which would be exciting except that I usually go through at least five of these, so there's still have far to go. Right now, the tentative title is "The Silver Waves of the Sea." What do you think?

In the meantime, I'm still going to be using my newsletter as my main source of outgoing news, so please sign up! That's where you'll first hear all about the novel when it's finally finished!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy Lunar New Year! Winter Edition of my Newsletter

Learn a bit about the Year of the Sheep in my newsletter!

The Winter and Lunar New Year edition of my newsletter is now out! Learn a little bit about the Year of the Sheep, get a sneak peak at my new novel, and more! And if you want to be eligible for the free book giveaways, please sign up!  As I said earlier, the newsletter will be my main outgoing source for now, so it would be great to have you onboard to keep in touch!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a little honesty and a little hiatus

hoping for a blessing from the Goddess of Mercy!

It's a new year and usually I like to make a bunch of resolutions or goals; but this last year has been  kind of a disaster when it comes to goal completion. I have to admit I've been a bit depressed about it.

I kept watching colleagues online that seem to be able to juggle their events and promotion and health and family and friends and books effortlessly and have driven myself to despair with comparisons. That Author is able to write four hundred beautiful novels, go to the gym for three hours a day, raise a family with six perfect kids and is the wittiest person on the internet! This Author does five hundred school visits a year but still is able to get a two hundred incredible books completed and go on date nights with wonderful spouse!

For the past year, I've been trying to figure out the magic formula. Can I work harder? Can I work later at night? Earlier in the morning? Stand on my head? But I still couldn't get it together. What could I do to be like Other Author?

And the answer is...nothing. Because I will never be like Other Author. Because Other Author is not me. Yes, Other Author can juggle the sun, moon, all the planets and all the stars and that is wonderful for Other Author. But I have come to accept that I am not a good juggler. That doesn't mean I don't have my good points, but trying to be someone I am not is a waste of energy (and making me even a poorer juggler). This year, I am just going to try to accept that my limitations are what make me who I am.

This doesn't mean that I do not strive for excellence, in fact it's the opposite. It's because I refuse to give up my ambition that I accept defeat. Other Author can do everything and somehow be brilliant at all of it. I cannot. I have to choose.

So, all of this is to say two things to you, my very patient reader. First, and most importantly, is  that I love interacting with you and am always so, so honored when I hear from anyone. But, ever since Rain Dragon arrived, I've been a poor responder and I truly apologize. I hope you understand my lack of response is more about my poor balancing skills than it is about my affection towards you.

Second is...I must write my novel. I want it to be good, for you and for myself. And because of that, I'm going to be temporarily taking a hiatus from this blog and most of my social media until I at least get the first draft finished. I hope it won't be too long, but I really don't know when I'll be back. If you'd like to stay in touch with my doings, please sign up for my newsletter, which for the time being will be my most active outgoing info.

Thank you so much and hope to see you all again soon!

Friday, January 9, 2015

fortune cookie friday

"If the first words fail, ten thousand more will then not avail."
- Chinese Proverb