Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

My husbands amazing looking turkey
Honestly, I'd rather spend this post complaining about some teaching and writing related things that are bothering me... but that's not the way to go about things. I need to be positive. So, instead, to keep my mind off the things I'm frustrated with with teaching and writing, I'm going to mention all the things I'm thankful for with teaching and writing.

 1 - I'm thankful that I teach at CBU

I know I won't be working at CBU forever, and I know that CBU isn't the only school I'll ever work at, but I absolutely love it right now. I love being able to integrate faith into my teaching. I love that we don't deal with office politics. I love that all the teachers' MAIN GOAL is to help the students succeed. I love my coworkers and my students. I love how much freedom I have in my teaching.

It's an amazing place to be.

2 - I'm thankful for my students.

Yes, sometimes they annoy me, but my students are seriously the best in the world. They put up with my colds and my disorganized teaching. They put up with my weirdness. They generally work hard and they love to talk to me about their successes.

3 - I'm thankful for Blackboard.

We don't thank our teaching tools enough. I know a few teachers hate Blackboard, but I LOVE it. I love how easy it is to upload. I love that I can have students upload assignments online and I can grade each of them ONLINE without having to download or print the assignment. We save paper, time, and for me, weight (Carrying assignments is hard!).

They keep my grades in order too, and it makes it easy to keep track of grades. Blackboard, you're awesome.

And now, writing.

1 - I'm thankful for MSWord.

My writer friends are probably going -GASP- you like WORD?!?

Yes. I like Word. 

I know there's a lot of people out there that praise writing programs like Scrivner (blah) or Open Office (also blah) but I like Word. It's familiar. It's easy to use. And guess what? You CAN easily make an ebook out of Word documents. There's free tutorials all over the internet to show you how.

Say what you want about other programs, but I love Word. =D

2 - I'm thankful for my amazing cover artist and fantastic editor.

Omni being a weirdo
Seriously, my cover artist is amazing. I mean, LOOK at that cover! I could never have done anything like that myself. The best part is that logo. Awesome.

I also love WHO my cover artist is. Omni helped me write the original story and create several of the original characters. Who better to have for my cover artist.

And of course, I can't forget my awesome editor.

I didn't post a picture, because I'm not sure how Mark would feel about it, but he's done so many amazing things with my story. I've done previews with several editors before and most of them made me feel somewhat uncomfortable (not the people - you guys are awesome. But the edits didn't sit well with me).

Mark's edits, however, are completely fantastic. I get GIDDY reading his suggestions and my creative wheels turn better and faster after looking at his work. My novel is going to be AMAZING because of all the stuff he's doing for me. You're awesome, Mark. =D

3 - I'm thankful for my community.

Image courtesy of Crazy Mandi from WANA Commons

I have two major writing communities I'm a part of. #MyWana, and Iron Sharpening Iron. We're strong groups and we do a great job of lifting each other up. We exchange book for beta reading. We share each others novels. We INVEST in each other. It's awesome.

I also have amazing friends in the writing world, including Kessie Carroll, Andrea Fingerson, and Jess E. Owen. Not to mention those on Facebook and Twitter who have been great supporters and friends as I work on writing.

So that's what I'm thankful for. Of course there's others, like my family, friends, kitties, and of course God, that kind of thing, but I think I needed something specific today. =)

What are you thankful for? =)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 - Author Life

Since it's NaNoWriMo this month, and since I've chosen to actually DO it again this year, I thought I'd share some of my past year's stats for NaNo.

I'm a Five Time NaNoWriMo participant and a four time winner. There have been a few times when I've signed up for a novel (and two attempts with my master's thesis) but I never actually wrote anything, so I didn't bother counting those.

My first attempt was in November of 2010. I didn't quite make it, but I got close! I'm finishing up the "final touches" of that NaNo novel now and hope to publish it soon. =D

And here's some stats from my previous years!

As you can see, MOST years I'm fairly consistent, but sometimes I will fall off for a few days and have to really marathon things to get back up again.

The first year I fell off because that was the year my Uncle Rick died... We spent a lot of time with my Aunt Debbie around that time and I just didn't feel the desire to write so much anymore.

But the following summer I finished the first draft of The Stolen Defender, then called The Island, and have spent the last three years perfecting the novel and my craft. It's amazing what having a first draft can do!

As for the other four, THREE of them will need full rewrites. I wasn't a big outliner back then, so I didn't have a clear direction for ANY of those books. Silver Guardian is especially bad and Drifter, then called The Second Island, hardly touched on the plot in all 50,000 words.

Target of Eons, however, has a much clearer plotline. It will need a LOT of rewriting, but it has enough good stuff that it's not a total loss.

I will hopefully be in the right place in my life to retackle Summoned in next year's Camp NaNoWriMo,but in the meantime... it's tackling Drifter.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Tricks and Treats - Teacher Life

Hello everyone! Happy November! And Happy National Novel Writing Month! Guess what? 

That's right! I'm a participant this year! YAY!

But first, time for some Halloween Shenanigans. This year, Halloween fell on a teaching day, so I went all out and made it a fun day for my students.

First of all, I made everyone Harry Potter wands. It's quite an involved process that took the better part of two weeks to put together. You can learn all about the process here.

The longest and hardest part is filling the wands. After rolling the things, the instructions say to fill it with hot glue. But that took way too much time, so we stuffed them with tissue instead and just plugged either side of the wand with glue.

Here's what the tips looked like.

Here's the base for the wands. Most of them came out nice and skinny, but I had to make 66 of them (OMG) so some of them got skewed as I got tired.

All 66 wands prepped, decorated, and ready for painting. Thankfully the painting process was very simple. The spray paint came first for a nice base coat.

Most of the wands got sprayed with brown, but I also did several in metallic gold and silver. Then the "artistic" part. The distressing. To do this, I watered down some black paint. Then I painted on the parts of the wands that had the hot glue decorations. After that, you simply wipe the paint up and down the wand for a nice wood looking effect. And you get these!

Not a bad look! The directions on Instructables suggests painting gold and silver on the hot glue parts, but with 66 wands, I just didn't have the time. They still came out nice though. Here's all 66 laid out all pretty.

You can see some of the gold and silver ones scattered throughout the wands in there.

To really add to the effect, I dressed up as a Harry Potter character this year for Halloween. Meet Professor Rachel Mcgonagall.

The costume was a blast to put together. And I had a real wooden wand, courtesy of Alivan's Wands.
Go check them out. They have amazing things. XD

Ready to hand out wands to some brand new magic students! The wands were amazing. My students snatched them up like crazy.

I got some pictures with my students as well.

Yes, that is all of us pointing Harry Potter wands at the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Apparently the Ghostbusters just needed to call some Aurors or something.

That day was especially fun because I got to try out a new teaching tool - Xbox. Rather than have my students read a bunch of boring evaluation papers, I'm changing it up a bit by having them practice evaluation in the classroom. So I fired up Soul Calibur and Split Second and let the students take turns racing and fighting each other on the Big Screen. They then took the time to fill out an evaluation sheet and will report their findings in a Reflective Journal. We'll see how the results are with their journals, but they loved playing the games. Even those that never played games got into it.

So that was my Halloween. And now time for some brand new NaNoWriMo shenanigans!

How was your Halloween?