Learning from my dog #lovedogs

Ashley Howland

Today I watched my big boof head puppy – Stitch weave some magic. He had already worked two sessions, which involved him running around the oval, doing countless obedience tasks and even playing ball. Then the final session began. Now this session is for the students from the Special Education class, so it’s shorter, but can be much more tiring for the dogs. Stitch is “trained” (actually he trains her, but that’s beside the point) by a very energetic young girl. Today she was enjoying the sound of her own voice. In an hour she must have said Stitch’s name at least a thousand times, told him to sit about one hundred times, pulled him around, pushed him around, repeated every command more than I would have thought humanly possible and in general was a lot to take. Yet take it Stitch did! In fact he did more than that. He worked for her, doing everything she said, all with a big goofy smile on his face. Every now and then he would glance at me. I could see the absolute exhaustion in his eyes, but he never gave up. Stitch, an almost three-year old labrador was going to keep going simply because that’s what was required of him. He will sleep well tonight.
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When I got home I was spent too. My Thursday’s are really difficult, ask any one who has filled in for me. It’s just plain exhausting. Still I decided to take a lesson from my boy. I strapped on the sneakers and headed out to combat. Now I won’t say I smashed it, but I did work up and old fashion sweat! Now I feel physically exhausted, but my mind has been refreshed and I may actually get some editing done tonight. All thanks to my special boy! I am so lucky to have Stitch, Obi and of course all the other amazing Labs in my life. Sometimes I think it is important to step back and look at life from someone else’s point of view. Often the best lessons in life come from the simplest things. Until next time – have fun!

Book Review: May I Dance With You Forever #amreading

May I Dance With You Forever by Anna Ruth Santiago

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This is a cute book of love and adversity for children. Two snowflakes fall in love, but must travel through the seasons before they can be together. It is a simple, sweet story and children will enjoy the idea of dancing together forever.

Stitch Says give it three woofs!

To check out your own copy got to: http://www.amazon.com/May-I-Dance-You-Forever/dp/161897615X

Keep reading, keep writing!

It’s happening!!!! #author

Okay so I have decided I will host my very first book launch. Only took my third book to get my act together. Still it will be fun, I even got some friends willing to help me! Very excited. I will also double up and run a blog book launch as well. This will happen in the next month or so and will include a giveaway. So watch this space.
I am trying to get myself organised so very glad to have some help and support. It’s funny when you take on something like this. The people who support the most are often the people you almost least expect. I say almost because they are still friends, but I guess it’s just funny how some people are more willing to support than others. Still I am grateful to have the support of my friends.

On another note today I heard from a nine-year old girl that they stayed up past their bedtime to finish reading Ghostnapped – because it was really good. Now I could get all the five-star reviews in the world, but that statement alone means more to me than anything. She’s not the first to tell me that either. To hear from the kids makes it all worth while. It is and will always be the kids I write for.
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So thank you to all for your support. I would love to have some advice about running book launches and blog launches, any help would be great! Until next time – have fun!

Is there such a thing as too much? #author #amwriting #blog2013

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So I just signed myself up for another flash fiction challenge. As well as the June blogathon. So that means I have two flash fiction pieces to write (one by the end of June and one by October). That doesn’t sound like much. However flash fiction or short stories are often the hardest to write. I prefer chapter books, but I think these challenges will improve me as an author. Not to mention getting my name out there more often. The more I can get myself published the better for my writing hobby. Notice I said hobby, not career. Sometimes I wish I could just write all the time, but then I also don’t think I would have enough ideas. It’s funny how not having enough time is probably essential to any writing success I may have.

I am looking forward to the blogathon, it’s fun to focus on blogging. Although I need to get cracking with my Stitch Says blog as well. I have a list of interviews and reviews to post. I also have more coming in, which is great if people are patient. I will get there – I promise. So it’s blog central here for a while.

Still need to get some editing done to and not to mention the chapter books I have started. Oh well it pays to be busy! So what are you all doing in this world and is there such a thing as too much? I would love to hear from some other authors!!! Until next time – have fun!

Book Review: The Argument #amreading

The Argument
By Annie Harmon

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This is a cute picture book about a natural competition between the wind, rain and sun. The Argument is a book children will enjoy. It’s fun and informative. The pictures are lively and the text is simple. Definitely worth a read.

Stitch Says gives The Argument four woofs!

To check out your own copy go to: http://www.amazon.com/The-Argument-Annie-Harmon/dp/1482781514/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_1_7W4W

Until next time – keep reading, keep writing!

Ideas that hit… #amwriting

My next character - Stitch!
My next character – Stitch!

Don’t you love when an idea hits you. Of course it’s usually when you can’t get to record it. How horrible is that? So what do you do?

I have a few techniques, that sort of work. The first is to try to repeat it over and over again. This works if you are in the car or at the gym. Not so good if I am working. I try to get my phone out and use sticky notes, just to quickly get the idea down. That can work, if I get the time to do that. I also try to carry a note pad and pen, that way I can write notes if I need to! My daughter recently decided to help me, she bought me a note pad. This was sweet. ALthough she did tell me it was so I could write more stories for her. Both my girls have a list of stories I need to write. Which is great, never short of an idea. Wish I had more time and of course I may need more note books later. Until next time – have fun!

Author Interview: Annie Harmon #amreading

Today we get to meet Annie Harmon, author of The Argument:

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When did you decide to become an author and what impact has this had on your life?
I have been dreaming of published novels since I was eight. Every day I would wake up with a new story idea in my head and I would write it down. The ideas were childish at first, but soon I came up with an idea that my mother said she wanted to read more about. By ten I had started my first “book”. By eleven I had finished the book, gave it to my mother… and she lost it. But I’m over that…seriously.

Tell us about your latest work and what motivated you to write it:
The Argument is the one just published, and that wasn’t as much a case of being inspired as it was a case of having always existed and just needed someone to put it down on paper. You know, one of those stories. My latest work (in the process of being illustrated), Genuine Alligator Shoes was truly inspired though. I was watching TV and a commercial for a flea market played: “…we’ve got everything from glassware to genuine alligator shoes!” I loved the way those words rolled off the narrator’s tongue and went around repeating it and wondering why anyone would need genuine alligator shoes. I loved the answers I came up with!

What are your future aspirations as an author?
I’d love to say I’m perfect and my biggest aspiration is to be able read to every child in every orphanage. (Which, of course is true!) But when I close my eyes and picture my ideal future, I have to be honest. I’m not that original. I see children lined up begging for my autograph, and when they do, I see myself somehow coming up with something witty and unique to say on the cover of each book. Then I see myself going home to my mansion and telling my maid I need another pillow for my tired feet. Being awesome is just so exhausting! But I guess for that to happen I’m going to have to ‘aspire’ to being much more prolific!

Where do your ideas come from? What experiences or aspects of your life influence your writing?
Most everything I have written has come from my children saying, “And then what happened?” And thank goodness, or every story I wrote would be condensed to “Once upon a time stuff happened, the end.”

What do you do to improve yourself and a writer?
I remind myself that writers write. I know I should be saying that I sign up for everything on the SCBWI, but the truth is I really do let life get in the way. Months will pass and then I find I have a story I really need to share but I’ve forgotten how to put the words down. And if anyone has gone a few months without writing they know how hard it is to tap a well that’s been left dry. When that does happen I remind myself again, writers write. Then I force myself to cover page after page with random words until I flush out all the decayed ideas. Until clean sentences begin to emerge. Once I’ve got a couple of pages like that I simply start following the neighbourhood kids around, offering them candy to listen to my recital. And when they start throwing rocks at me I know I either need to go write some more, or get better candy.

Thanks Annie,we think you are pretty awesome too! Wonder if your first story will ever turn up. In the mean time we look forward to reading and reviewing The Argument – will be posted later this week so watch this space. Keep reading, keep writing!

Reading to write #amreading #amwriting

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Writing tip number 1:
In order to write you must read! It’s essential. Reading is the blood of writing. If you as a writer can not find the time to read then do you really think others will find the time to read your books? i guess it’s not completely like that. Still reading is what can improve you as a writer, give you new material, new contacts and even cure the dreaded writer’s block! So what do you read? Anything and everything. Just don’t be afraid to stop reading something if it isn’t working for you. It’s not a personal reflection on an author. That particular book just isn’t your thing. So don’t waste your time. Find something else. Read widely. Find independent authors, well-known authors, new authors and read some classics. I know it takes time, but it is worth it. The other thing is to make sure you read books similar to what you want to write. So I love writing children’s chapter books. That’s also what I love to read. Here is the link to my listmania for my favourites:

http://www.amazon.com/My-favourite-children-s-novels/lm/RM91ZIOYNCFCV/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full

You might know some of these books.

So how do you find the time to read? Well if you have kids then it;s easy. Story time before bed! You pick a book and read it to them. Lots of fun and you get to enjoy it from their point of view. Which is really important if you are writing for children. Also make the time to give yourself half an hour each night before going to bed. There is nothing quite like getting under the covers with a good book! Lastly if none of that works. Take a hot bubble bath and read (just don’t drop your book!). Thinking I might go and do that now! Until next time – have fun!

Challenging yourself #amwriting #chaboocha

My next character - Stitch!
My next character – Stitch!

So yesterday I approved The Homework Goblin! Which means I will be able to launch it very soon. Will do a blog launch, with some giveaways. Just working out the details now. This is new territory for me, so will have to work a few things out.

That’s not all I have been doing though. I recently submitted two flash fiction fairy tales for the Chapter Book Challenge Anthology. This is in the process of being edited for publishing. So I can soon include that in my published list too – very exciting.
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I am also editing my next two novels – hoping to have both ready for professional editing by the middle of the year. I am looking at trying to get those published next year (2014 could be a big year for me!)

I am also putting together a plan for the November NaNoWriMo. I have a story that I started way back, but never really did much with that would be perfect for a rewrite.

Recently I signed up for another blogging challenge in the month of June – which will coincide with the launch of The Homework Goblin, so I might do the giveaway at the end of the month, just because I can!

Then there’s my next series that I have started. The aim is to complete the draft of book one this year and do the sequel in the Chapter Book Challenge in 2014! I am also thinking about doing the 12 month challenge for some more flash fiction in 2014. That way I could publish my own anthology at some stage.

All that and I haven’t mentioned the super hero flash fiction competition that I will be entering! So I am definitely challenging myself. Lots to do!

What I have learnt over the last twelve months is that I respond well to challenges (actually I’ve always known that, just didn’t realise it worked for writing too!). I have also learnt that although I am ridiculously busy I do have the time to write, if I am sensible and make the effort. It’s funny I recently had an encounter with someone who was busy telling me they couldn’t help because they were too busy. So I was left to do it all myself. Now I have to laugh, while I just put in my efforts and focused on what I was doing they sat by themselves doing nothing. It seems a bit strange to me. Have to love how they made the assumption that because I was willing to put in my time that I had nothing better to do!!!! Not the case, it’s just that I felt it was important to add in that one more challenge. So that’s what I do… until next time – have fun!

It’s here #childrensbooks

My next character - Stitch!
My next character – Stitch!

Finally it’s here. My first copy of The Homework Goblin arrived in the post today!!!! Soooooooo excited. It’s amazing, this is my third published children’s book, but it still gives me chills to see my name ont he front cover. All I have to do now is check it and then email off my approval. Then finally i can launch my book. I am thinking about som sort of blog launch. I’ve never really done one before, so not quite sure how I will do this. Would love to have a competition of sorts. Any suggestions?

I am also keen for some extra help marketing my new book, so if I’ve had you on my Stitch Says blog for a review or an interview or you can just help me out that would be great. For now though I need to get checking. The sooner I can approve, the sooner people can start reading! Until next time – have fun!