Sunday, April 01, 2018

April Reading Challenge: The Kids' List

My kids are just as passionate about books as I am, so it was fun to wake up this morning to the beginnings of a "Must Reads" list. Welcome to five Middle Grade books recommended by the fourth grade set.

April Reading Challenge
The Kids' List


"Life is not divided up into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical,
science-fiction cowboy detective novel." ~ Alan Moore

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New Title Alert!

Burnout - New Title!

Old Covers:
NanoWrimo, Kindle Scout, and Published

After much research, a new title for my second book, to replace Riding with the Hides of Hell, was imminent! Help me welcome the new name, Burnout, which has many definitions: 1.) a totally destructive fire, 2.) the result of prolonged stress, and 3.) the act of spinning tires, causing heat and smoke due to friction.

All of these meanings can be found in Will and Miki's story. It's about riding motorcycles, being outside and feeling the dirt on your skin, the wind in your hair. It's about adventure, wearing leather, and being a rebel...and if you couldn't tell by the heart, it's about sweet love, too.

Time and readers will tell, but in this moment, I believe the new title works! Burnout is short, attention grabbing, and easy to remember. It gives a hint to what the story is about, and bonus, I can tell people the name without getting weird looks in return. Win!

It's a slow process getting things changed, so bear with me while the two titles float around. The pages within are basically the same, though, so have confidence reading whichever title you like.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Was, Were, and Wishful Thinking

First of all, I'm not a Grammar Queen and probably shouldn't give too much advice in this area. But sometimes I have a question about what "sounds" right to my english-is-my-first-language ear. I don't recall the school lesson or the rule, but why do these two sentences work*?

1.) I wish I were the Queen of England.
2.) I wish I was the Queen of England.

If I leave off the "I wish" part, then the first sentence definitely doesn't work. One would never say, "I were the Queen." Where were is to plural (we were, you were, they were), was is to singular (I was, you were, he was, she was, it was). Same goes for an "if" phrase...

3.) If I were the Queen, I'd have my own library.
4.) If I was the Queen, I'd have my own library.

Admittedly, I don't think the sentences above, numbers 2 and 4, sound right, but I've critiqued a lot of work and read many traditionally published books where this was the usage. However, * says, "It's never correct."

Want to know why? Apparently, it has to do with wishful thinking, statements that aren't true, and a verb's mood. When you see sentences starting with the idea of wishing for something, (I wish, Sheila wishes) and the word "If," those are huge clues to use "were." For deeper insight, let me guide you to some helpful resources, because when I see a word like "subjunctive" I know I'm sailing off the deep end.

Here are some sites I visited to better explain the matter:

Subjunctive Definition and Usage by
Subjunctive Verbs by Grammar Girl
When to Use "If I was" vs. "If I were" by English Language and Usage Stack Exchange

"Grammar is a piano I play by ear." ~ Joan Didion

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Book Giveaway on Etsy!

Head over to ESPIALdesign's shop on Etsy for one of four copies of Riding with the Hides of Hell available for $1. Each one comes with a hand-crafted corner bookmark and free shipping, too.

Riding with the Hides of Hell
Young Adult FINALIST in the 2016 PNWA Literary Contest

Riding with the Hides of Hell (RHOH), a young adult adventure romance, is getting a new title! So to get rid of the back stock where the old name is used, I'm giving four copies away - for $1 each (Etsy wouldn't let me do free, sorry!) - first four, first served! The story content and cover will remain the same (aside from the new title). Enjoy!

"It's always trouble with you."
While grieving the death of his mom, sixteen-year-old Will Sullivan drinks, drives, and lands his butt in the hospital, lucky to be alive. Enter his dad’s buddies from the Hides of Hell Motorcycle Club with big ideas about biker therapy, as in get ready to ride. Unfortunately, Will is teamed up with the prez’s daughter, the troublesome Miki, and playing passenger on her bike is gearing up to be the ultimate nightmare.

"Hop on!"
Miki Holtz isn’t some bubblegum chewing high schooler who only cares about her blue hair and the chips in her nails. She wants to be a mechanic and to make a love connection with her soul crush, Will Sullivan. Yeah, her speed is fast, and his is slow. She’s a mover and a shaker while he’s oddly attached to his floral couch. Will had better get ready for change, because if he’s riding on the back of her bike, he’ll need to hang on tight. Hell, yeah!

"I don't like the way you like me."
The easy ride takes a turn when a bad decision is made, and their rivals, the Pulver Skulls MC, take notice from the shadows.

Riding with the Hides of Hell is an adventure story set in the Pacific Northwest where a strong girl and a moody boy discover love while trying to survive on a road trip from hell.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Making a Title Change

I'm just now venturing down the path of making a title change for Riding with the Hides of Hell. The idea struck me after seeing a one star review by a person who reads biker erotica. So, I guess my title didn't convey that it was a chaste-young adult-love-adventure-story! My bad.

And the special tonight is...Roasted Popa Toes.

But it certainly pointed me in the direction of looking at marketing with a keener eye. So I did a little research and found some helpful articles by those who've been down this same road. Good resources on the topic include:

1.) On Changing Book Titles and Covers: My Own Experience by The Creative Penn

2.) How to Change a Book's Title Without Losing Reviews by Indies Unlimited

3.) On Books Changing Titles by Stacked

4.) Thread: Changing Titles on Amazon KDP Support

Now that I know what to do AFTER I make the change...what do I do before? Like what makes a good title? Believe it or not, I've been down this "Coming Up with a Title" road before. Good stuff, too.

But that didn't keep me from doing a little more research. According to Book in a Box, while brainstorming for the perfect title, ask yourself these questions: Is it attention grabbing? Is it memorable and easy to say? Does it hint to the potential reader what the book is about? Is the title idea embarrassing or a problem for someone to say out loud to their friends?

The folks at First Second Books have some helpful tips, too. Is the title you've dreamed up already in use or too similar to another book? Does your title have profanity in it?  (Gulp! "Hell" is probably a bad choice for the childrens market.)

I'm going to add one more brainstorming question that I just thought of...does the title accurately convey the tone of the story? I'll go ahead and answer no for myself.

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"
~ L.M. Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables.

Monday, March 05, 2018

ESPIALdesign on ETSY: Heart Bookmarks in Shades of Green!

Today, I took a break from writing to work through some mental kinks by crafting some BIG, heart corner-bookmarks. Being March, I dipped into my green paper stash, which came from the Western Washington Scrapbook Retreat a couple years ago. See why you can't throw anything away? You never know when it'll come in handy.

I also had enough little bees (paper recycled from a German gift bag) to make four more bee themed bookmarks. Check out the new stuff at ESPIALdesign on Etsy. Unfortunately, my window lighting was typical Seattle the colors look a bit cold. The background paper used below may not look it, but it's a dark teal.


"Craftiness is happiness." ~ Unknown

Friday, March 02, 2018

2018 Camp Nanowrimo

March is prep time for next month's Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where writer's set their own goals, like choosing how much to write or choosing to do edits and revisions. It's a good way to stay on task while using the Nanowrimo community for accountability. Want to write together? Look me up: Espialdesign.

Get Lost. Write

I like to create covers to upload to Nano; it's an official start for me. I've thought about the story and the title (even though I know it's going to change), I can advertise that I'm the author of Dealing with Blue, and I even added, "Surely, a stunning read." by a made-up reviewer called Review Dog. Now, all I have to do is fill in the middle with 25 thousand "stunning" words.

Work In Progress
Young Adult Fantasy

The cover above was designed on my Mac, and I had all kinds of problems: My computer froze, embedding the font into the picture *sigh* and then when I saved it, suddenly my name was cut in half horizontally. Never seen that one before. Also, I just noticed my quotes around the review totally disappeared, but I guess that's what you get when you use Mac's previewer for a quick design.

No serves its purpose as being a step one in the Camp Nano process. Step two this month is to create characters and an outline, so that step three, when April 1st rolls around, the writing will come a bit easier. 

Good luck participants!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

March Reading Challenge: Shoes

Welcome to March! Ready for a new challenge?

All the books that didn't get read for the #WearRED February Reading Challenge were shuffled back into the TBR pile--another go, another time. Except one...I'm currently reading The Romeo and Juliet Code from last month. I decided to use it as my inspiration moving forward. I wanted to get away from using colors again, since last year, the March Reading Challenge was to read a green cover. This year? I wanted something more random. about shoes?

March 2018 Reading Challenge: Shoes

Here's the new line up:
1.) The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone (Middle Grade)
2.) Blondie McGhee: At Your Service by Ashley Eneriz (Elementary Level)
3.) Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Middle Grade)
4.) The List by Siobahn Vivian (Young Adult)
5.) The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (Women's Fiction)


My Favorite Pair

"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world." ~ Marilyn Monroe

Monday, February 26, 2018

Final Week: 2018 Heart Art Challenge

26.) The final countdown! It's the last week for this year's Heart Art ChallengeToday, my contribution is a blackout poem inspired by a Fibonacci sequenceThe blackout poetry challenge this week was to create a poem with 6 lines and 20 words where each line is the sum of the two previous lines: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8



to explain.
Do you believe
he said, I love you?
It's probably true, but there's more to it.

27.) For last week's blackout poetry challenge of Where in the Word: Name Your Favorite Place, I chose Mount St. Helens.


Mount Saint Helens had a cramp.

28.) This morning, on the last day of Heart Month, I took my dogs for a walk and came across a rock. It was sad, thoughtful, and cute all at the same time. In memory of squirrel. R.I.P.

A Rock with Heart

February might be on the verge of done, but I'll still be putting love out there. I'm chapters away from finishing my third Young Adult Romance, I'm creating more BIG heart corner-bookmarks to put in my shop, ESPIALdesign, on Etsy, and I'm still donating to the American Heart Association. I agree with whoever wrote this on the steps of the cathedral in Aachen, Germany...


Monday, February 19, 2018

Week 4: 2018 Heart Art Challenge

19.) Happy President's Day! I decided to make a heart-healthy dessert today: crockpot applesauce with no sugar added...only apples, cinnamon, vanilla, a bit of lime juice (didn't have lemon) and some water. Tastes like yummy apple pie filling. Hmm, hmm good.

Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce

20.) Doxie love! I painted this several years ago and gave it to my mom in memory of a very special dog. Feeling nostalgic and grateful for pets today.

Zoey Over the Rainbow Bridge

21.) I was off the grid for the past several days--no wifi, no cable, no cell--while enjoying a rustic yet cozy cabin in Rhododendron, Oregon called Laughing Bear. I heart snow!

22.) While on winter break, we went skiing at Timberline on Mt. Hood and tubing at The Summit. Hearth healthy exercise, right? Felt like it.

Workin' It

23.) While off the grid, we watched old movies, ate popcorn, and played a marathon of Apples to Apples. When I had some "me" time, I worked on a blackout poem...something creative, something I love to do.

Freedom died on the paper.
All of it.

24.) While the rest of the family went tubing at The Summit, I sat in the car with the dogs and worked on some writing projects. Tango was beside me with the light hitting his hair just right. I love this crazy mutt.

Tango with his mutton chops.

25.) Saying goodbye to the snow is equally hard and easy to do. Putting chains on tires while in a white wonderland...chaffing ski boots while gliding down a mountain...popsicle toes while drinking hot chocolate and Fireball. It's been fun, Mt. Hood! Loves ya!

Cold Snow, Warm Heart

Monday, February 12, 2018

Week 3: 2018 Heart Art Challenge

The third week is upon us, and I'm still plodding along with my Heart Art Challenge where everyday in February I find something positive--with regards to hearts and love--to put out into the world. Today offered a nice way to wake a sunny reprieve in Seattle.

12.) The sun taunts me while I make winter break plans, which hopefully involve a lot of snow: skiing, sledding, and a cabin in the mountains.

Hearts and Lights

13.)  Yesterday, I received a gift from my hubby; he thought every writer should have a telescoping pen! #amwriting

Telescopic Key-Ring Pen
by True Utility

14.) Happy Valentine's Day! Today, I was at the elementary school teaching an art lesson about hues, tints, and shades. We mixed up some paint and had a go at making Valentine hearts with lights and shadows. A quick and fun lesson right before their class party.

Heart Art on the Drying Rack

Heart Art Wall

15.) Throw Back Thursday: A photo from last summer in Sinemorets, Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Morning coffee with a heart.

Beach Combing and Coffee

16.) Surprise! Asphalt heart.

Hearts Everywhere

17.) Need some inspiration on this fine Saturday? 

Put some happy in your heart.

18.) Where was I last night? At the Paramount theater in downtown Seattle, watching Hamilton. All I can say is...WOW! Way to rap out a fresh take on Alexander Hamilton in U.S. history...I loved it. I've seen plenty of musicals and plays, and this one is easily my new favorite.

Hamilton, a Broadway Musical

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Week 2: 2018 Heart Art Challenge

Oh, happy Monday, the Heart Art Challenge continues! Here is the second week of February, and my dedication to all things love and hearty:

5.) Made a list of things sold this year from ESPIALdesign's Etsy shop where 50% of the proceeds will be donated to the American Heart Association in November.

6.) Snapshot! Found a heart in nature.

"Some buggy loves you!"

7.) My heart feels sentimental right now. I hung my late grandma's cuckoo clock on my wall today and WOW... that thing is a beast. When it was handed down to me a couple months ago nothing on it worked. I took it to a clock shop, who at first quoted me a base price of $750, but then called to say there were no parts made for its age and size. I had them turn it into a battery-operated clock instead. The music no longer plays, the people no longer dance, and the cuckoo has been removed, but it still tells the time. Waiting for #happyhour

A BIG souvenir from Grandma's Travels
Germany, 1979

8.) This evening I cooked up some heart-shaped blueberry pancakes. Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? Scrumptious! Recipe called Fluffy Pancakes (serves 8) at The only adjustment I made to the batter was to use less baking powder: 1-1/2 teaspoons instead of two.

I Heart Pancakes

9.) Fresh from the ESPIALdesign studio: Four big bookmarks that are all heart, inspired by these phrases: "Spread our wings" and "Live our dreams" and "Let's go be adventurers."

Heart Corner-Bookmarks: Front
"Live for Adventure"

These four gems are packaged together and are available on Etsy for book lovers, Valentines, or anyone who likes to leave love notes. Inexpensive, full of good vibes, and half the proceeds go to the American Heart Association. They're fun to make while I cogitate about writing.

Heart Corner-Bookmarks: Back
Love Notes

10.) Thought I'd share a few pictures from our K├Âln trip last summer where we walked along the bridge of love and locks.
"40,000 padlocks hang on the bridge to date – a shocking number considering that the tradition only started in 2008. That means 40,000 couples – 80,000 individuals in all – have participated in this fast-growing, spontaneous collection. The padlocks have added over 2 tons of weight to the bridge, causing local officials to question how long the practice can be sustained." ~
Hohenzollernbr├╝cke Bridge 2017
 Cologne, Germany

11.) Recycled an old Valentine card into a new one and am going to mail it tomorrow to friends in Colorado. Ending this week and starting the next with good vibes. Happy Valentines Week!

"Know what makes this Valentine sweet?"

Monday, February 05, 2018

2018 ESPIALdesign's Art for Heart Donations

Last year's donation (2017) to the American Heart Association from ESPIALdesign's Etsy shop was $26.00. Below is the running tally for the 2018 donation...gearing up for #GivingTuesday in November.


I'm spreading wonder
With one word.


1.) 4-Pack Heart Corner-bookmarks "I love coffee"
2.) 4-Pack Heart Corner-bookmarks "I love bees"
3.) Renew Blackout Poem
4.) Narwhal Blackout Poem
5.) 4-Pack Heart Corner-bookmarks "Love and Hearts"
6.) 4-Pack Heart Corner-bookmarks "I love bees"
7.) 4-Pack Heart Corner-bookmarks "Live for Adventure"


Total: $14.00

Week 1: 2018 Heart Art Challenge

1.) Made up a February reading challenge inspired by #WearRed and started reading Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen:

Historical Women's Fiction

2.) Wore red shoes on February 2nd for the American Heart Association's 15th Annual National Wear Red Day.

3.) Crafted four BIG heart corner-bookmarks with a "love and hearts" theme and put them in my Etsy shop: ESPIALdesign.

4.) Created a blackout poem inspired by love and music:


They kissed and his music
Altered her heart.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Big Hearted Bookmarks at Etsy

Fresh from the ESPIALdesign studio: Four big bookmarks that are all heart, giving new meaning to the phrase "My weekend is all booked."

Heart Corner Bookmarks - Front
Love and Hearts Theme

These four gems are packaged together and are available at Etsy for book lovers, Valentines, or anyone who likes to leave love notes. Inexpensive, full of good vibes, and half the proceeds go to the American Heart Association. It's all about love!

Heart Corner Bookmarks - Back
Love Notes

"Reading is dreaming with open eyes." ~ Anonymous

Friday, February 02, 2018


I don't wear a lot of red, but after some serious digging into my wardrobe I found a faded t-shirt, ruby earrings, a garnet necklace, and an old pair of dusty heels I've only worn once.

Since I was helping a friend celebrate her birthday this morning, and I wanted to participate in the American Heart Association's 15th Annual National Wear Red Day today, I brushed the dust off my shoes and breezed out the door with birthday wishes and hot coffee on my mind.

Of course, I needed to take a picture and as it happens, just the other day I bought a portable table-top photography studio (another project, another day) and thought I'd try it out. Random...I know.

Studio in Use


The price wasn't bad at $40.00, and it came with the two LED lights shown, collapsible cloth frame, a miniature tripod and clamp for phone cameras (cheap and not the best for bigger, weightier phones),  and four backdrop cloths (red, white, blue, and black). The fabric box folds into a carrying case with three pockets that hold everything nicely. Love it!

I wish the tripod were better, but for the total price, I can't really complain. One thing I might add later are cloth bags to hold the backdrop cloths so they stay nice and clean while being toted around. Here's what it looks like folded and ready for storage or transport: