Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Partner in Adventures

Meet my new partner in adventures, River Cheyanne, my granddaughter. She was born at 12:13 a.m. the 30th. Due to complications, she was transferred to a NICU floor at a nearby hospital but should be ready for adventures soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015's Adventures

This past year was an interesting one for me. A year of new adventures. One of them was scuba diving. I learned to swim in college. I quickly went on to become a lifeguard, then WSI and swim on the master's team (an impressive title that just means it's adults, not kids).

I kayak and I jet ski. I swim. But I have resisted Scuba for many years even though my husband certified in 1991 in Okinawa. Then my son in 2005, when he was 15. And of  course my daughter has her underwater crime scene investigations certification.

Two reasons I didn't do Scuba. First, I'm not big on closed-in places, and being underwater qualifies. Secondly, I don't breath that great. Back when you had to blow the water out of your snorkel after coming back up, I couldn't do it. I had to pull it out of my mouth and drain it. So I figured I would probably not be able to clear my mask.

Jessica (the UCSI) and I were talking over book ideas and started planning one about a female UCSI. We wrote a little of it, and she wrote the underwater scenes. Then in October 2014 I was at a beach that is probably the most popular dive site around here because there is a man-made reef, and jetties with a lot of different kinds of fish. There was a very young looking instructor getting into a van that said something about scuba on the side. I mentioned to him that I had never tried scuba for the reasons I mentioned above. He said he could get me through it.

I started thinking about it, but I couldn't remember what the van had said and didn't have contact information for him. But I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I went online looking for any local place that offered a short intro class. I signed myself, Jasmine and Kaleb up for a two hour class that was for anyone 8 years old and up. (It turned out to be the place where the guy I'd talked to worked.)

 I figured if an eight year old could do it, I could too. I wasn't sure about Jasmine because she has lots of fears. I figured Kaleb would do fine.

The day of the class came (May 2). Well, Kaleb didn't do fine. Every time we'd submerge, he'd give the sign for up. Very frustrating. But Jasmine did great. And I cleared my mask with no problem. Since I had the regulator in my mouth while clearing my mask, I had plenty of air. In this class, you don't go deeper than six feet, and with Kaleb, we barely made that. He just wasn't ready. The weight of the tank took him down, and he panicked every time.
He later retried the class, and Kayla tried it this time too. He panicked again every time the weight of the tank took him down. (They don't let them adjust their own BCD in this class and since it's only 6 feet at the deepest, they don't really use it). Kayla loved it, but she is afraid of deep water. So they are going to wait a year and try again.

Jasmine and I decided to go ahead and certify. So we started classes. We met a pool to learn all the basic skills first. Some of the skills took us out of our comfort zones, but we passed them all.

Unfortunately, Jasmine's ears don't clear right. She can't go very deep. She's been to a specialist and had an CT, but there's no easy solution. It may be because she was a cleft palate baby. She is going to have to figure a way to equalize that works for her. But right now she has too much pain in her ears. We are going to keep working with it.

I still don't like closed in places, but I've only done dives at one location, and the water is pretty clear. Lots of visibility. So even  though I went down to 60 feet, it didn't feel like it. If I was in murky water, it might be a different story.

I have done a couple of extra dives with our instructor (which cost way too much) to get more experience and because I don't have an experienced dive partner right now. Jessica is pregnant so can't dive. She is going to have her baby this coming week, so we will probably dive in the springs in a couple of months. They are shallow enough that Jasmine may be able to dive with us.

Tyler hadn't dove since 2005, but I wanted him to dive with me and the instructor, so he got a quick refresher course on the regulator and clearing the mask, and then we dove on the far side of the reef down to 45+ feet.

So that was my adventure for 2015. In 2016 I want to get my advanced certification. Or maybe my motorcycle license. I would say there's no way I could do that, but I thought the same about Scuba last year.

What new did you do in 2015? What do you plan to do in 2016?   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What Color are Your Eyes?

When I create characters, I need to know what they look like--skin color, eye color, height and weight--or at least general build. 

I find eye colors interesting.

55% of the world's population have brown eyes
 8% of the world's population have blue eyes (Approximately 17%  for the United States see here)
5-8% of the world's population have hazel eyes
2% of the world's population have green eyes.

(The eye color photos below are from the Internet, not my own work.)

I have blue eyes that are a bit grayish so I'd guess toward gunmetal blue. I have two blue eyed children.

In the YA novel I'm working on now, Freerunner, Thorn has sky blue eyes. 

I have five (adopted) brown eyed children. They are pretty much between chocolate and nut brown.

In Freerunner, the main character, Kia, has amber eyes. (The first one in the box above)

Green eyes are pretty rare, so it's funny that almost all the romance books have a green eyed protagonist in them.

What color are your eyes? Are they shown above?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Try This at Home--Building with Graham Crackers

Before vacation is over, you may be looking for something to do. Especially if your younger siblings are driving you crazy. Involve them in this project and see who can be the most creative.

You need graham crackers, frosting or peanut butter to act as glue, assorted candy or other food items for decorations.

Then use your imagination.

My son Adam and his friend Leon built this interesting sculpture at our Thanksgivng get together. (He recently broke up with his girlfriend so just brought a friend)

My daughter Jessica built a penguin encounter with her husband and mother-in-law looking on.

pretty cool!
 My daughter Jasmine and I built a nativity.
We had envisioned a much more elaborate stable, but it kept collapsing!

The other kids' projects collapsed before pictures.

So we decided to try again and built a graham cracker village the last two days.
 We found the easiest way to cut graham crackers is by "sawing" them with a steak knife.
 You needed two end pieces and two side  pieces for each house.

And you need two half squares for the roof.

You can cut the end pieces shorter and use 1/4 a cracker for the sides to make a smaller house.

 Here is our finished village. We've had a snowstorm! You can see that there are cars stranded.

 The people are as big as the houses. The snow is coconut flakes. 

 The trees are made from ice cream sugar cones frosted and turned upside down. The snowbanks are peppermint circus peanut candy (it's usually orange, but the Christmas ones are white) covered in coconut flakes.

So if you get bored during vacation, try building a village of your own.

Monday, December 21, 2015


I have been working for at least a year on a young adult novel called Freerunner. The synopsis is below. After reading the synopsis, would you read the book? (Hoping it will be a book someday not too far in the future!)


Night is 15-year-old Kiana (Kia) Scott’s favorite time. It is when she can be anonymous. Swallowed by darkness, she runs to outdistance the voices in her head and the ugly images that are never far away. As bad as the memories she can’t shake are the unanswered questions:

With a Caucasian mom and grandparents, why are the features staring out at her when she looks into the mirror distinctly African American? Who is her birth father, and why will her mother never speak of the past—her own or Kia’s? Is her mixed ethnicity or her mother’s unmarried status the reason her grandfather has always hated her? Or were both factors simply her grandfather’s excuse for abusing a younger Kia? More pertinently, can a damaged life like Kia’s ever hold an identity, hope or a future?

Even years after Kia and her mother have escaped her grandfather’s grasp, Kia can’t escape his legacy in her life. Freerunning, a creative way of running that incorporates gymnastic and acrobatic stunts, helps Kia flee both memories and questions. Thorn, her best friend, runs with her. He has his own problems to overcome, but unlike Kia, Thorn believes God has a plan for everyone, even those who come from hard places. Which simply raises more painful questions. If God is real, what kind of a God sits back and watches little kids get hurt? Why would Kia want to know such a God? Or forgive Him any more than she can forgive her grandfather?

A new pursuit and acquaintance helps distract Kia from her problems. Her high school has a new track coach, Terrence Jones. The good-looking African-American athlete in his early thirties is not only a celebrity reality television star, but a superstar in the world of freerunning. Suddenly track is the most popular sport in the school. When Kia’s best friend Thorn urges her to try out for the track team, Kia agrees in hopes that being part of a team will help her feel worthwhile and give her life meaning.

But just as life is looking good, Kia’s world is rocked to its core when the grandfather she hasn’t seen in almost a decade not only moves back to town, but back into the same house with Kia and her mother. His pretext is that he is dying of cancer and wants to mend relationships with his daughter and granddaughter. But Kia isn’t buying it. Not with the ugly memories every glimpse of her grandfather stirs up.

To make matters worse, Kia may be a natural track star, but if Coach Terrence Jones sees her potential, Jamaican-born assistant coach Cassandra Clark seems to be determined to make life miserable for her. Why does the assistant coach hold such a grudge against her new boss? Even more puzzling, why should that grudge extend to Kia? What is the past connection between the two coaches? Why does Kia get the feeling Coach Clark knows more about Kia’s missing past than Kia knows herself?

Thorn encourages Kia to deal with the past abuse and move on, but she tells him “I’m not a fighter, I’m a runner. All I’ve ever been good at is running.  Running from the visions, from the things that haunt me. Running from the things I can’t beat or change.”

Once again Kia turns to freerunning to escape. But this time it is a community outreach Coach Terrence Jones has started to offer kids a safe place for their stunts and practice. Coach Jones recruits Kia and Thorn both to help with the younger boys and girls. For the first time, Kia feels she is heading somewhere in life and doing something positive with her talents. As Coach Jones also shares with Kia the same unwavering faith that Thorn displays, Kia begins to consider for the first time that perhaps there really is a God of love—and that perhaps He really does have a plan for even such a dysfunctional life as Kia’s. Especially as she learns that Coach Terrence too has had to overcome betrayal, pain and grief. In fact, the more Kia learns of Coach Terrence’s story, the more she begins to wonder—especially when she discovers that the two track coaches not only attended high school together, but with Kia’s own mother.

That is, until she discovers that her grandfather has begun loitering around the outreach—and its young children. Nor can she buy that his presence there has anything to do with reestablishing his relationship with his granddaughter. Especially when other and darker secrets come to life—not just about her grandfather, but Coach Terrence, Coach Clark, and even her own mother. Has everything in her new life—including her own fledgling faith—been a lie?

As her new life begins crumbling around her, Kia realizes she can no longer keep running. Worse, if she is unwilling to make a stand, she will not be the only one left with a ruined childhood. But does she have the strength to stand up to her grandfather and the secrets of her own past? 

In a heart-stopping showdown, Kia finds the courage not only to confront past abuse, but to lay aside her own fears and pain for the sake of others. Never could she have guessed the astonishing revelations her decision will bring to light. As Kia finds both the answers and identity of which she’s always dreamed, she comes to accept that she may always bear scars. But her life is neither ruined nor without purpose. And the loving God of whom her best friend Thorn and her birth father, Coach Terrence Jones, have testified has not only been there from the beginning, but has a plan for her present and her future. Kia is still a runner, but this time she is running towards tomorrow and all it holds for her.
(Obviously this is my own, original work. Please don't share it.)  

Would you read this book? Leave your answer in the comment section. It's okay to be honest. A no answer won't hurt my feelings. 

The drawing for a Books a Million card is still open if you go back to the 100 Best Teen Novels post. (Must be 10-18 so if you are an adult have your teen enter!)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Red, Green and Blue

Five words of a Christmas song keep going through my mind... "all is cheery and bright," and I wonder, what if for some people all isn't cheery and bright during this holiday season? Because, here's the thing, people have made Christmas into a big month long celebration complete with social gatherings, fattening food and gifts that can break your budget. The high expectations come with a lot of stress and pressure to be happy and engaged in all the activities.
For some people Christmas isn't red and green, it's blue.

But what if instead of red and green, things in your world are blue? No, not really blue, but you have a case of the blues. Or even depression, whether caused by the holidays or not. So while everyone else is having fun hanging out, shopping, and going to movies and parties, you're miserable and just want the season to be over so life can go back to normal. Know what? You're not alone.

If you have true depression, that's a medical condition. It's not you feeling sorry for yourself, and it's not in your mind. It doesn't mean you're not a good Christian or failing to trust God. You need to see a doctor to get help. There's nothing at all wrong with getting help or taking medicine. After all, God gave those doctors the brains to diagnose you and prescribe medicine. 
Depression is very real. It often needs medical treatment.

If you're just having a case of the blues, there are things you can do to make it better.

  • Be realistic about the holidays. You may not have a storybook Christmas. Don't compare your Christmas to anyone else's. The day might not be magical. If your family doesn't get along during the rest of the year, chances are they aren't going to get along at Christmas either. Adding the stress of having too much to do and spending too much money along with feeling like you have to be happy and family situations can get ugly.  So if you're expecting miracles, you might be facing failed expectations. Not that God can't work a miracle in your family, but that takes willing hearts.
  • Don't wear a mask. You might be at a party and all your friends are having a blast. You'd rather be at home watching TV. You're surrounded by people, yet you are lonelier than when you're actually alone. Be real about your feelings--maybe not during the party itself, but later when you have a chance to talk. Your true friends will get it. Make sure you have your support people in place. There's a story in the Bible about a crippled man who wanted to see Jesus. He couldn't get there on his own, so four friends each took a corner of his mat and carried him. Who has your corners? Avoid people and places that get you down. Stay away from negative influences. Ask for help if you need it. You might even want to join a support group. They let you share your feelings and know you aren't alone.
  • Don't sweat the little stuff or let the stuff you can't control get you down. You can't make the weather cooperate with your plans, and you can't control other people's actions or reactions. But you can follow the same routines you always do, and you can take care of yourself. A lack of sleep, exercise and good nutrition will just make things worse. You may not feel like doing anything, but exercise will help reduce stress, so skate, bike, run or go to the gym. The weather has been warm enough this year to be outside more than normal.
  • Grieve your losses. That might include a break up, a fight with a friend, the loss of a pet, the loss of a family member through death or divorce, the loss of a job or anything that was important to you. There is no timeline for grieving, so find a way to deal with the feelings whether it's been a few days or a few years.
  • Some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder that happens around the same time of year. Some people blame it on less sun while others have different explanations. If you find yourself feeling down every winter, you might want to do some research into it to find a solution that works for you.
  • Focus on what's important. You know the Christmas story. The babe in a manger came to save the world and offer eternal life. That's what it's all about. Find a Bible and read the gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are Jesus' story. And his story makes a difference.
  • Plan something for after the holidays. Some people who don't have the holiday blues suffer from post holiday blues. Either way, plan an activity or fun outing for after the season is over. Or set some goals. Learn to swim. Read a series of books. (Look back to the post about the 100 best teen books.) Learn American Sign Language. Join a club.   
Holiday blues and holiday depression are real. If you are suffering, talk to someone. If you're not, be sensitive to the feelings of those around you who might be. Find your own way to make this season cheery and bright.

What things give you joy during the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Learn more:
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Preventing Holiday Depression
Myths and Facts About Depression
Teenage Depression

Monday, December 14, 2015

When All is Not Cheery and Bright

I saw this cartoon, and it hit me that in this holiday season when all is supposed to be cheery and bright, there are a lot of people who aren't looking forward to the season and who hope to just make it through. Depression can seem worse during times when we are expected to be festive, and the holidays may hold a depression of their own. I'll be talking more about that in an upcoming post.

The cartoon says "One awesome thing about Eeyore," but I think it really should say "One awesome thing about Eeyore's friends" 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Best Teen Novels

What do teens read and enjoy? You probably have your own ideas. But here is what said are the favorite 100 best-ever teen novels.

How many of these have you read? What have they left off the list that you would add?

I tried posting the actual article with book covers, but the formatting was very hard to read, so I'll post the titles only and also the link to the article so you can read the descriptions and see the book covers. READ HERE

100 Best Teen Novels according to

  1. Harry Potter series 
  2. Hunger Games series 
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird
  4. The Fault in Our Stars
  5. The Hobbit
  6. The Catcher in the Rye
  7. Lord of the Rings
  8. Fahrenheit 451
  9. Looking for Alaska
  10. The Book Thief
  11. The Giver Series
  12. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  13. The Outsiders
  14. Anne of Green Gables
  15. His Dark Materials Series
  16. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  17. The Princess Bride
  18. Lord of the Flies
  19. Divergent series
  20. Paper Town
  21. The Mortal Instrument series
  22. An Abundance of Katherines
  23. Flowers for Algernon
  24. Thirteen Reasons Why
  25. The Curious Incident of the Dogs in the Night-Time
  26. Speak
  27. Twilight series
  28. Uglies series
  29. The Infernal Devices series
  30. Tuck Everlasting
  31. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
  32. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series
  33. The Call of the Wild
  34. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  35. Go Ask Alice
  36. Howl’s Moving Castle
  37. Star Girl
  38. A Separate Peace
  39. Vampire Academy series
  40. Abhorsen Trilogy
  41. Doon
  42. Discworld/Tiffany Aching series
  43. My Sister’s Keeper
  44. The Dark is Rising sequence
  45. Graceling series
  46. Forever
  47. Earthsea series
  48. The Inheritance Cycle
  49. The Princess Diaries series
  50. Song of the Lioness series
  51. Treasure Island
  52. Delirium series
  53. Anna and the French Kiss
  54. Hush, Hush, Saga
  55. 13 Little Blue Envelopes
  56. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
  57. The Gemma Doyle trilogy
  58. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  59. The House on Mango Street
  60. Something Wicked This Way Comes
  61. The Chocolate War
  62. Just Listen
  63. A Ring of Endless Light
  64. The Truth About Forever
  65. The Bartimaeus trilogy
  66. Bloodline series
  67. Fallen series
  68. House of Night series
  69. I Captured the Castle
  70. Nick and Norma’s Infinite Playlist
  71. Before I Fall
  72. Unwind
  73. The Last Unicorn
  74. The Maze Runner series
  75. If I Stay
  76. The Blue Sword
  77. Crank series
  78. Matched series
  79. Gallagher Girls series
  80. The Goose Girl
  81. Daughter of the Lioness/Trickster series
  82. I Am the Messenger
  83. The Immortals series
  84. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
  85. Chaos Walking series
  86. Circle of Magic series
  87. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  88. Feed
  89. Weetzie Bat series
  90. Along for the Ride
  91. Confession of Georgia Nicolson series
  92. Leviathan series
  93. The House of Scorpion
  94. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci
  95. This Lullaby
  96. Gone series
  97. Shiver trilogy
  98. The Hero and the Crown
  99. Wintergirls
  100. Betsy-Tacy books

Now that you've read their list, leave a list of your top ten favorite YA or teen novels. 
This giveaway has ended. Look for a new one soon. Also put only your first name and age if you are between 10 and 18 years old. (Also get a parents' permission please) 

I will be putting the names into a drawing. I will draw on December 24. First place will get a $15 Books a Million Gift card, second and third places will get $10 gift cards. 

I will post the winners late the 24th and ask you to send your address to my e-mail address in order to get the card. (That's why you need an okay from your parents)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Interview with A.J. Cattapan

A.J. Cattapan is a writer and teacher who lives in the Chicago area. Today she answers questions about herself and Angelhood, a young adult supernatural/fantasy bookAngelhood won a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction—Religion/Spirituality and an Honorable Mention from Readers’ Favorite Book Awards

About Angelhood

How did you choose the title? 
The title came to me the day the idea for the story came to me. The whole thing came tumbling out pretty quickly. I was in the shower of all places, and by the time I stepped out of the shower and onto my purple bath mat, I thought, “And the book will be called Angelhood.” Considering how few authors actually get to keep the title of their book, I was pretty excited that the title came right away, and that my publisher liked it!

How would you describe the book to someone in a text message? 
“It’s a Wonderful Life” for teens: one guardian angel, two missing wings, three souls to save.

Who is your main character and what problem does she face? Seventeen-year-old Nanette wanted a life on Broadway but when her dream college rejected her, she begins to believe the world would be better off without her. However, the afterlife offers less than a heavenly situation. She becomes a guardian angel to another teen contemplating suicide, and she must find a way to reach her even though she’s missing not only her wings but a tangible body and voice with which to communicate.

What might draw someone to your character? 
Nanette is a very down-to-earth girl. She’s not perfect, she’s a bit snarkey, but she tries to do what’s right, and she’s very protective of those she cares about.

What prompted you to write this book? 
I was facing a difficult point in my writing career. Although I’d had some success in writing for children’s magazines, my two previous attempts at a novel had failed. I wondered if I’d ever have a writing career. That’s when I suddenly got an idea for a story about a teenage girl whose acting career seems over before it’s begun.

What did you bring to the book from your own life? 
Well, Nanette is a theater geek, and I was a theater geek in high school. In fact, I did a fair amount of community theater after college, too.

What makes your book stand out from other books like it? 
There are many books about teen suicide, but I wanted a book that would offer hope for teens. A lot of books on teen suicide don’t leave you any better off than when you started them. I wanted to show that our faith gives us any chance, gives us hope.

What is one thing you learned from writing this book? Sometimes the best ideas come at the last minute!

About A.J.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
A teacher (did that!), then a writer (did that!), then a psychicatrist (haven’t done that!), then back to a writer and a teacher.

Do you still want to be a teacher, writer and psychicatrist? 
I’m still a writer and a teacher, so I guess it worked out, and I’m working on an Ed.D. (an education doctorate) so I guess I’ll be a doctor one day too, just not the psychiatrist kind of doctor.J

When did you know you wanted to be an author? 
In the sixth grader after reading Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to write something that would affect others as emotionally as Anne’s story affected me.

What books have influenced you most? 
Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, The Westing Game.

What’s the most times you’ve read a book and why?
I’ve read all the Harry Potter books at least twice (the first in German, too!), but I think I’ve read Anne of Green Gables at least three or four times.

What are three unusual things about you your readers might not know?
·   I’ve taken all the Wilton cake decorating classes, so I can make you a tiered masterpiece.
·   I didn’t get on a plane until I was twenty-four, but now I love to travel, and if I had more time and money, I’d travel the world!
·   I have four brothers and no sisters, and I actually loved growing up that way. They didn’t treat me like a princess, and they didn’t tease me (too much!). They treated me like one of them.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? 
Ziplining from one mountain to another in Guatemala. Either that or traveling by myself to Italy for two weeks to study Italian.

Do you have life philosophy? Favorite verse? 
To quote from the movie Auntie Mame: “Life’s a banquet and most poor fools are starving to death.” I refuse to starve. God has given us a wonderful planet filled with amazing adventures. Let’s make the most of our time here together.

What advice would you give a teen who wants to be a writer? Keep writing and keep reading. Writing is something you get better at with practice. Read the kinds of books you want to write and then practice, practice, practice. Then read some books on the writing craft and go back and revise, revise, revise.

Want to connect with A.J.?
Amazon Author Page: 

To buy Angelhood