Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I'm leaping into 2009.

Actually, we all are. With an added leap second.

What will you do with your extra second in 2008?

A few suggestions:

-write one extra word

-do one squat


-take a deep breath

But I think my best suggestion for your extra second is to make your New Year's Eve kiss one second longer. I think that's what I'll do with mine. That is...if I'm still awake.

(Now adding one more suggestion--get one extra second of sleep.)

But who couldn't use an extra second of love. Every second counts.

Here's to lots of love in 2009!

Happy New Year, friends!

Monday, December 29, 2008

La La Check-in

Way back on December 2 I found myself visiting La La Land and getting nada done. I needed focus.

That visit to La La Land lead to the creation of the December La La Goals and then the offered prize of the Licorice Lasso! Yee-haw.
So I'm checking in and filling in.
Those of you who shared your own La La goals, let me know how you did. Post here in comments or on your own blog and link in the comments.
My La La goal was: I will keep my Office Hours at The Vault (M,T,Th, F from 12:00-3:30, W from 11:30-1:30) and those Office Hours will not include email, Facebook, or blogging, but will include working to move forward with my work-in-progress.
Those of you who visit me now and again know this didn't happen. Nope. As it turned out, December was a tough...really tough...month and it wasn't even possible to be at The Vault. Could I have kept Office Hours away from The Vault? Well, probably...but it didn't happen.

I was forced to revise. Not my writing, but my writing life. And, you know? I think it was good for me. It was good for me to say to myself, "Jolie, you've been working really, I mean really, hard the last three and half months. It's okay to take a breather. To take care of your girls. To spend time with your family. To enjoy the snow and the season. Oh, yah...and to eat!"

Now, as 2009 approaches--girlies getting back to school and a schedule getting back to normal--I think I can return to my Office Hours refreshed and ready to get back to it. At least that's what I hope.
I'm sure many of you have met your La La Goals and some of you, like me, had to revise your writing life. Either way, let me know.
'Cause some one's taking home the Licorice Lasso and it won't necessarily be the person with the most perfectly matched goal and productivity.

Here are the goals that were posted:
Kjersten said: I'm going to get three new finished illustration samples in December.
CocoaStomp said: My December goal is to clean up a picture book dummy that I put aside for holiday monster paintings and send it off.

Jennifer Bertman said: My writing goal for December is to finish revisions on my novel.
Holly Cupala said: My focus is to finish my novel. Ok, to write 20K words. There. That's totally reasonable, and that will get me pretty close to finishing.
Laurie Thompson said: I am a distractoholic, and December is the easiest of months in which to get distracted, but I really must get moving. So, office hours, here I come!
Kelly said: my goal is to polish up one poetry collection to send out to a few publishers. I'd also like to submit to at least three magazine this month!
Annie said: My December goal is to get my first three chapters of my middle grade novel ready to send to Alexandra Penfold.After that, to continue with it, chapter by chapter.
S R Wood said:
If I'm serious about 1000 words a day, Monday-Wednesday-Friday and maybe Saturday, my WIP should be at nearly 30,000 words by the end of the month.
Kim Baker said: My December goal is to have this draft of my WIP together enough to let someone else read it.
Kim Baise said: I have TONS of art to complete this month.I need to complete 3 works of art for my Lullaby Moon book.I also need to finish my part of a collaboration with a textile artist....and then there's that commissioned work.
Martha Brokenbrough said: My goal is to finish a draft of my novel. I'm really close. :-)
Shelli said: I am finishing line edits on my book to send out on Jan 5th :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I'm finally returning from the Wild Holiday Yonder. That doesn't make sense!?! But you know what I mean. I've been away. Not really away. But away from Blog Land. I think it's that the snow is finally melting, and just like the roads and grass are reappearing, so am I.

Ta Da! Here I am.

And what have I been up to?

Eating and celebrating, of course. Three days of it! Plus it took one full day for me to recover from my food coma.

As for the writing life, I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but even when I'm not writing, my mind still is (in one way or another). If I'm not making sense, just go with me here. I might see something that makes me think, How would I write that? or How would my main character view that through their eyes? Or I might be going through something, doing something, and then wonder how would it relate to a character's life. I don't think I'm alone here. The writer never completely turns off, even when you're not "working."

Back to the personal.

Christmas always means tradition, especially when it comes to food (from my Italian Heritage). These days it seems it's a combination of traditions--old and new.

This night has always meant fish in my family. I hated this as a kid. I would force the halibut and cod down as I sat at the kids' table and I was usually the last one sitting there. The Italian cod dish is called Baccala. Baccala is a dry, salted codfish and is not easy to get your hands on, so not something we do very often, but when it's done, it's just as much about the sauce as it is about the fish.

We've changed it up a bit since moving to the Pacific Northwest. This year, and years past, we've had steamer clams and crab. Now that goes down easy. I'd have a picture here of it, but it all disappeared before a photo could be captured.

Instead, here's the dessert I made. Chocolate Baby Cakes. That's Candy Cane Roca sprinkled on top. Delish!

But let's not forget the drink of choice! A pomegranate martini!

Cheers, Mom!


Stuffed Artichokes were the dish of the day. Not only are they beautiful and Christmas-y, with their red and green, but they are to die for. I wish you could pluck off a leaf and taste one for yourself. The artichoke leaves are stuffed with mixture which is similar to our meatballs (although prepared differently) and then covered with a tomato sauce and baked.


We added one more day of celebration this year--the day when my brother's family could join us.

We gorged on spaghetti (homemade noodles) and rajole.

Now rajole is not the prettiest food in the bunch, but it is mighty tasty. A mixture of bacon, celery, garlic with many wonderful spices are mixed and then placed on a very thin piece of bottom round steak. It's then rolled, tied up, and dropped in the spaghetti sauce to cook and give the sauce amazing flavor.


Now I'm sure the day needed for recovery from the all this food makes sense!

Getting back to the writer in us that doesn't ever really shut off.

Tradition is important. Most families have one or two or even more than they can count. And so should our characters. And if they don't, well then, that must speak volumes about them as well.


How about the main character in your current work-in-progress? What tradition(s) do they have?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Wish

A BIG wish means asking for BIG help. And I have a really BIG wish!

Who better to go to this time of year than the Man in Red? So, I did. I stood in line with all the other eager writers (I mean kids) and waited for my turn. I waited and waited and watched as the bearded fellow listen to wish after wish.

Then I had to wait for two girlies who seemed to talk to Santa FOREVER! I mean, what parent would let their kids go on for that long when so many others are waiting...and waiting.

Oh yah, those were my girlies.

But finally they stepped aside and I placed myself on Santa's knee.

He was anxious to hear my BIG wish, and once I told him, he said he and the elves would do all they could to make it happen. Then he told me that once my book is published he would be sure to put it in many, many stockings. Isn't he great? That's BIG.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowed In! What's a Girl to Do?

Cue the music!

Walking in a winter wonderland...

That's been the tune in these parts. All this snow has meant a third consecutive day of school closures; kids aching to be outside constantly; kids coming inside looking like jolly elves with rosy cheeks; being confined to the house where one would think writing could get done but it's doesn't; and Christmas shopping that MUST happen but hasn't because I can't get to the mall.

...walking in a winter wonderland, walking in a winter wonderland...walking

WAIT! Stop the music.
NO MORE WINTER WONDERLAND, I have things to do. Okay, maybe that's drastic, but can I at least request safe driving conditions?
Fortunately, I have been able to do bit of online shopping during this cold spell. There such cool stuff out there, especially created by crafty types. And the crafty types make great things for the bookish types.

Can I share a few favorites I have already received this season?
I'll take the silence as a yes since I'm sure you're nodding.

Look at this cutie pie I got from the wonderful SCBWI Western Washington team as a thank you for my three years as Co-Regional Advisor. It's a purse made out of a book. How kick-book is that? This (or something like it) would make a super gift for the reader or writer types in your life.
And here's the side view. Don't miss the title!

I'm not sure where this exact purse came from, but you can find all sorts of such things on Etsy. And, if you've never shopped on Etsy before...make sure you're snowed in and have no place to go because you might be there a while. Really!

Another favorite that I love to give and get? Laini's Ladies. I love, love, love the Ladies! Just look at the bounty I recently received from the lovely Laini herself. Such a lucky girl I am.

Go HERE to find out about how you can get Laini's Ladies at 20% off. Again...really!

Want a "green" idea? I received this little giftie from a friend and couldn't love it more. These EarthLust bottles aren't only a gift for a friend or loved one but a gift to our planet. And, there's so many cool designs. I got a super deal (no shipping) on them HERE today.
Happy shopping! Or maybe you're one of those already finished types. If you are, I applaud you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis the Season

For what?

I want to know.

You tell me.

During this crazy month of December, 'tis the season for what when it comes to your writing and/or illustrating?

I mean, I don't know what it's like at your house, but at mine (on top of typical daily doings) it's been: at least one sick person at all times; Christmas decorations; a gazillion school projects for the kids; cookie baking; gatherings; and holiday tasks I've yet to accomplish (gifts and cards). Plus, it's freezing out there. Phew!

So, if your house is at all like mine, what does that mean for your work and how you feel about it?

Does it make you want to lock yourself away with your computer and get lost in your writing?

Curl up in front of the fire with a great book?

Completely focus on the holiday season and forget about writing for the month?

Eat lots of cookies and drink lots of Nog?

Now, spill! Not your Nog, but your thoughts. I want to know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sick Day

I'm taking one. I have to say, taking a sick day is hard for me. Anyone else? But I'm certainly under-the-weather, like the little drummer boy is playing inside my head.

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum!

So I'm all tucked into my room (at least until the girlies are out of school). But I can't just curl up and do nothing. I'll most likely spend the day cozied up with my laptop on my lap. That's what it's for, right? To sit on my lap, keeping me toasty.

And warmth is what I need right now because it's Jack Frost freezin' out there. Just ask the hummingbirds. I truly wonder how these sweet little guys don't turn into little birdsicles when it's this cold. Yesterday when we woke up to a white world, the feeders were covered with a good couple of inches of snow and the hummingbirds couldn't get to their food. Once we got it cleared, they went wild. This morning, their food was solid ice and the poor little guys were having a fit. We couldn't see them, but we could hear them clicking away.

The snow meant that building a snowman was a must. Well, I didn't build one, but the girlies did. And it was no ordinary snowman. He had to be a character; have some personality. So, they built a snowman outlaw. This picture was taken before he had his stolen bag of rocks...I mean bag of money.

That lasso reminds me of our December La La goals. Hope you're all doing better than I am!
Here's the snowman outlaw later. I believe this one was captured just after he left the saloon.

Here's to staying warm and healthy, friends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm a WINNER!!!!!!!

I won. I won. I wuhhhhhh-naaaaaa!

Okay, it wasn't first place, but I was runner up and I got a medal. A medal! Look:

It's MY cookie medal for taking second place in our SCBWI Western Washington cookie contest. I have never entered before, but I knew one day I would. And one day, I'd win. Especially with these sweet and delish babies:

Those are my Candy Cane Kissed Chocolate Cookies. If you read on, you may find the recipe at the end of this post.

I really did win. I'm paranoid you all will think I lie (after I told you that I have). But, I promise, this did happen. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't flashing during this particular winning moment, but many were and I'm hoping that I'll be able to get my fingers on some pics from a wonderful night spent with friends. Including these two:

I'm sure most of you recognize this pink-haired sweetie. That's Laini Taylor with hubby Jim Di Bartolo. What a treat it was to have them join us on Wednesday night. A group of us got together with Laini and Jim before the SCBWI WWA meeting, where Laini was our amazing speaker. Honestly...AMAZING! So amazing, that after a week or so making little progress with my own writing, I made some yesterday. And some is better than none. I attribute this to Laini's inspiration (she's FULL of it). If you want a little taste of what she said, check it out HERE.
A funny thing: At dinner, Sara and I both gave Jaime a belated birthday present. And look at what we got her:

Hello, Cupcake! How does that happen? Just one more sign that Sara and I have been and are a great team. And just maybe, we often think alike (and buy friends the exact same present). But seriously, what gift could be more appropriate for such a cute cupcake like Jaime Temairik?

Now, put down the cookie or the fudge and go work on those La La Goals! Or, go and make some of these:

Candy Cane Kissed Chocolate Cookies

2 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided
6 Tbs Flour
½ tsp Baking powder
¾ cup Sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbs dark corn syrup
½ tsp peppermint extract
½ cup chopped peppermint candy cane

-Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (Really! Use the parchment.)
-Melt half the chocolate morsels and set aside.
-In a medium bowl, with electric mixer on medium, beat sugar, eggs, corn syrup, and extract until thick (about 3 minutes).
-Gradually beat in melted chocolate, then dry ingredients.
-Mix in remaining morsels and freeze for 10 minutes.
-Drop heaping tablespoons of batter, 3” apart on baking sheet. Refrigerate remaining dough. Bake 12 minutes. Quickly sprinkle tops with chopped candy and then bake 3-5 minutes more until cookies are softly set.
-Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

La La Lasso!

That's right. The La La Lasso will be awarded to one fine friend for accomplishing something, anything in December. Last week took me off course a bit, but I'm getting back on. But lots of you posted December La La goals. Keep 'em coming. To accomplish anything this month is fabulous, even if it's writing your holiday letters and sending out cards. Go ahead. Post away. The more the merrier.

When I saw the lovely Holly Cupala the other evening (remember, I told you I'd tell you about this) she said she meant to bring me something. A thank you of sorts. A yummy one at that. Want to know what she had for me but forgot? Cherry Caramels. Really! How sweet is that?

But here's what happened. As we were in a long line of massive people buying Martha Brokenbrough's book, there were the caramels sitting in a cute, little box. And that Holly grabbed 'em up and said, I'm getting them for you. Then away I sailed on my ferry, after a really great night with friends, with a box of caramels sitting in the passenger seat. I only ate one (honest)--I had to see what they tasted like for goodness sake--because the rest will motivate me through the work (my La La goals), just like they've done for Holly.

I'm now in search of the perfect licorice rope to serve as the La La Lasso; a treat to pass onto one of you, just as Holly did for me with her caramels. A sort of paying it forward with candy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monsters, Loser, Liar, Psychic, and a Big Chicken (Really!)

So often, when I make my trek across Puget Sound, I wish I could pack all of you up in my mini-van (we’d really have to squish in) so you could share the incredible beauty all along they way. Saturday it was magical from start to finish. The kind of morning I needed after a rough week.

I had planned to head over on Friday night so that I could attend Jaime Temairik's Holiday Monster party. I'm still sad I missed it. I hear it was monster-ific. You can read about it HERE.

I started my day as a guest speaker in Lois Brandt's NaNoWriMo class. Yes, she has a class that assisted a group of writers in reaching their NaNo goals. Cool, huh? Cool until you hear that I was invited to represent the NaNo Loser. I walked in sporting a cap with a BIG capital L on it. Well, actually that's not quite true, but it would have been fun. And it would have made sense. That L could have stood for Liar rather than Loser since I told them how lies helped my successes with last year's NaNo. I'll tell you of my lying ways in another post. Promise. (I know it must be hard to believe me now that I've outed myself.)

But, I did get to share my recent good news--news that came because of my NaNo loss last year. I've signed with an agent. Here I am a week ago when the agreement came in the mail (prior to the week falling apart). I know this is just a beginning, but I'm trying to celebrate all my successes along the way. And it felt appropriate to stand in front the word believe for this photo. I'm still holding tight to the belief that my novel will find a home...the right home. And now with the help of my agent; the fabulous and savvy Rosemary Stimola, it feels even more possible.

I spent the afternoon at the wonderful Third Place Books where I browsed and read and wrote and met a best friend's aunt in the bathroom. Funny...I know. At least that' s what I did until it was time for the big event; Martha Brokenbrough's Things That Make Us [Sic] book event.

So, I think Martha is about one of the smartest, funniest people I know. And so was her event. There was even Grammarella the Punctuation Psychic on hand. BTW...I'm an apostrophe. I'm sure that's obvious.

Just look at Grammarella soaking up her psychic vibe from all the books.

Not only was the event attended by Grammarella, but also a very large chicken.

And what's more...there were lots of cool peeps there. Here I am with Joni Sensel, Martha Brokenbrough, and Holly Cupala . (On a side note, the talented Mrs. Cupala sent me home with a yummy treat. I'll tell you about that in a later post.)

I would say it's obvious that the evening was as smart and funny as the book and its author. If a book about grammar sounds boring, I dare you to pick this one up and say it is. Watch for a coffee spot interview with Martha in the near future...

Wow, seems I'm promising a bunch of future posts. Guess I'm not lacking content. But before the others, you're sure to hear about my time with the colorful Laini Taylor. If you are in the Seattle area this Wednesday, you won't want to miss Laini's appearance at the SCBWI Western Washington Professional Series meeting. I won't!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Full Circle Moment

Sadly, last night, we had to say goodbye to our sweet Hankdog.

He was a good boy and our house feels a little less full without him. I thank you for all of your well wishes. I know most have experienced loving and losing a pet (part of your family).
But an interesting thing happened this morning. As neighbors found out we lost Hank, we learned they welcomed a new pup into their family. Just strange how an end and a beginning can happen on the same day.

And look what came over for a visit this morning...

That's our neighbor's new bundle of joy. He's a French Bulldog and too cute. And on a day when we're all still feeling very sad, it was wonderful to meet this fresh, little guy and welcome him to the neighborhood.

We had a moment together when he fell fast asleep right in my hand.

Here's to pets everywhere who bring love into our families.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sigh. Double Sigh. Triple Sigh.

I have to say, my heart hasn't been into blogging (or a lot of other things for that matter) for the last couple of days. Still isn't. But I didn't want you to think I fell off the face of Planet Blog.

First, I have to tell you how great every one's La La Goals (as I'm now affectionately calling them) are. If you haven't already, please feel free to add yours HERE. I believe there's power and support in numbers, and this is certainly a time of year when we could all use both...and then some.

But, onto my sighs. Sometimes you bump into to tough stuff and it fully takes over all your brain power. Hubby took off this morning to attend the funeral of a very dear friend's father. Our eight-year-old girlie is home covered with Chicken Pox. All this while we are very concerned for our sweet, sweet Hankdog. He's not well. And it's just hard to prepare for what is likely coming.

I've posted some more recent pictures of Hank, but here's some from Hank's younger days. The below was taken almost 11 years ago when Hank was still a puppy.

We adopted Hank as an older puppy. Before he was ours, he belonged to a little girl who decided she'd rather have Backstreet Boy tickets than her dog. That's right. She sold him to us so she could go see a concert. We felt like we rescued him. He was covered with fleas and living with big dogs that I don't think we're very nice to him. But just look at that face!

And I just love this picture. Hank and I surrounded by my very favorite flower.

Hank has been with Derek (hubby) and I before we were married. He's been with each of our girls since the day they came from the hospital. So, it's tough. Real tough...

I do have exciting happenings upcoming this weekend and next week. My mind's just not there at the moment, but I do look forward to sharing with all of you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The December La La

No, not fa-la-la-la-la... But La La as a state of mind.

It's like December hit yesterday and my brain went right there for a little La La. Ever visited? It's actually not an unpleasant place, just not very productive. I'm hoping the visit was only a day trip.

So this morning, when I woke up to a quiet house all lit up with the freshly placed Christmas decorations, I realized I need a December focus.
Anybody else?
Now that NaNo's over, now what? Do you have a finished draft? Do you still need to finish (like me)? How about all you non-NaNo-ers? What do you want to accomplish in December?
It's a tough month, friends! It's easy to visit La La. But if you're like me and would prefer to have some productivity in activities other than cookie making, cooking eating, present wrapping, movie watching (A Christmas Story gets me every year), or any other distraction that keeps you from writing or illustrating this month then let's work together.
Here's my December goal: I will keep my Office Hours at The Vault (M,T,Th, F from 12:00-3:30, W from 11:30-1:30) and those Office Hours will not include email, Facebook, or blogging, but will include working to move forward in with my work-in-progress. Yes? Yes!
What's yours? Post here and I will check back with you during the last week of the month.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to It

It's over! November has come and gone. NaNoWriMo has either lit up word counts in green, screaming the word WINNER.

Or not.

I'm the or not.

At least they don't write LOSER across the word count bar. And, I must say, nothing about 27,000 (or almost that many) words feels like losing.

After the long Thanksgiving weekend, it's to get back to normal...

Nothing has been normal for the last week and a half. Kids have had half days of school and then a four-day weekend. Time to get back to a five-day weeks consisting of full school days and a typical schedule. Not that four days of great food, time with family, and a house now filled with Christmas cheer hasn't been wonderful, but...I'm ready to get back to it.

Congrats to all those who made it to the NaNo finish line!