The Blogging Life

INDIEpendence Day: A review of my fave indie book

As part of the IndiePendence blog hop, I’m writing a review of my personal favorite independently published book: A Dignified Exit by John J Asher.

In A Dignified Exit, Monroe is a painter living in rural Texas with a devastating secret. Rather than burden his aging small-town friends, he makes the decision to take this secret with him to Mexico and live out the rest of his life alone.

He leaves behind an ailing adult son, Robert, who spurns him one last time before Monroe goes, and an angry ex-wife who isn’t too sorry to see him gone.

Despite this, the reader learns to like Monroe, who seems a bit lost in his personal life, but determined and competent as he makes the move to Mexico.

His plans to stay alone are very quickly changed when he can’t help but intervene in a fight between a young couple that earns him a bloody nose. The girl, Angelina, ends up destitute and abandoned in Mexico. Monroe decides to take her in so she can earn wages as his help to get back to the States.

The book becomes an unusual romance, with Monroe knowing he can’t fall in love with the girl, as it’s too late for him.

The story has commercial undertones but a literary feel, so that the pacing never suffers under the weight of the beauty of looking at the world through Monroe’s artist eyes. We might linger on a meal, or a scene to be painted, but the story still moves as Monroe’s son comes to visit, tragedy inserts itself, and some of Mexico’s unusual citizens become players in Monroe’s drama.

As Monroe’s secret unravels and his relationship with Angelina spirals into something neither of them expected, Monroe and the reader will be reminded that any of us can find salvation through love, even when it is almost, but not entirely, too late.

Buy for Kindle

Buy Paperback

The mystery of the dog-ears ‘do dis

SOMEBODY put a big X on my face!

In my own yearbook!

So yesterday in Lit Chat, we were discussing Ugly Duckling stories. I confessed that I was very much an U.D. as a child and had photo proof.

I don’t know what possessed me to try this modified Princess Leia hairdo on picture day (the pin in the coils hurt, so I went with them down), but I got ridiculed for it. It’s something I’ve never forgotten, but even though people called me “Dog Ears,” I wasn’t particularly scarred by it.

Until now.

I broke out the 1980s era yearbook to scan the picture for LitChat. And found this.

Immediately I turned to the back of the yearbook, searching for anyone who signed in pencil. Only one. Hank P, my very first boyfriend. He had encircled his message, “To the greatest girlfriend I’ve ever had,” with pencil hearts. (Of course, I was the only girlfriend he’d ever had.)

Unlikely suspect. I wouldn’t have let him touch my yearbook after our Big Breakup anyway.

But in thinking about it, I am quite sure I didn’t see the X marking my spot at the time, which means it could only have been done after the fact. Someone in my own home.

Someone I trusted.

My brother.

Wait, did I say trusted? Scratch that.

I seem to recall my yearbooks getting mixed up with his. Maybe he thought he was marking me out of his own book. Maybe he knew what he was doing.

The yearbook is coming with me when I visit home this weekend. Watch out, baby brother.

Stay tuned for the big confrontation…

Google+ or Facebook?

Since Google+ opened the floodgates last weekend, people have been flocking to the new social media site, either because they are tired of ads and privacy issues on Facebook, or just to try the shiny new toy.

I have used groups on Facebook since I joined, so I have already categorized my friends by interest and privacy level. This has worked well for me, so I have been resistant to moving to Google+ just to access the circles feature.

But then, all the writers in the kid lit world started forming circles, and I decided to join the fray rather than be left behind.

Here are differences in the two platforms that have mattered to me:

What Google+ Does Better

  • As of *right now*, people are sharing with their topical circles only on the subjects that they have in common. Writers talk about writing. Photographers share photographs. Very few cat posts, or where-I’m-eating posts, or general complaining.
  • No ads. (Won’t last, but nice.)
  • Ability to quickly and easily make your post have special formatting such as strikethrough (put a hyphen -on either side- of the words) or italics (put an underscore _on either side_) or bold (put an asterisk *on either side*)
  • Ability to EDIT your posts. Whew! Facebook better get on that.
  • Hangouts. Debbi Ohi and a few others are doing newbie hangouts so beginners can learn about this video chat feature.
  • Circles. Of course, the circles are the big thing. Frankly, I think they don’t work. I’m not sure why I should put someone in a circle if they may not be listening to what I’m sharing, or why they should put me in theirs if I’m not going to pay attention to their shares. It’s backwards. But at this point, most people are mutual sharing, so it’s not critical. I have only today starting paying attention to who I’m dropping into circles, rather than madly adding everyone.
  • People are creating directories of people who share specific interests. Photographer lists. Blogger lists. Librarian lists. GLBT Poets. People who create on the iPad. It’s been great finding new people who do what you do, like what you like. In fact, I started a list of Google+ members who are also part of Verla Kay’s Blue Boards for children’s writers.

What I don’t like about Google+

  • Sorting problems. If I’m not on for a little while, the “people who have added you” builds up, and I can’t find my close local friends to get them added. I’m constantly being surprised by the people I’ve missed.
  • Streams. I know sorting the streams can work, but mostly it’s too much noise. I already sorted my news feed on Facebook. I don’t find this to be any better, and I liked letting Facebook predict who I probably wanted to hear from based on my comment/like habits. I could always override that by changing my feed to “Most Recent.”

What Facebook does better:

  • I miss pages. I have several of them, for my local business, for my iPad/iPhone app coming out, and others on topics that are dear to me. We can go to the page and talk about our topic without streams or unrelated content. When we’re on the miscarriage page, we talk about miscarriage. In the Google+ streams, we can still get an unwanted message like “The baby threw carrots on me” by someone with both a loss and a baby. No one posts about their babies on a miscarriage page because that’s what the page is for, as opposed to a stream for a circle you’ve been placed in but don’t know exists.
  • I miss secret groups. I want to have a locked-down location to go and talk about a topic and know that it’s not going into unexpected streams or being reshared. People act like Facebook was evil on privacy. I’m having a much harder time with it on Google+, and so I share much less there.
  • I miss knowing general things. I do. Yes, most of my friends are authors or photographers, and we should be talking shop so as not to bore people, but I like hearing that they found the perfect latte or got roses. It’s a personal choice. Google+ might evolve to this eventually.

The Upshot:

I’m sticking to both for now, but I like Facebook more. I’m sad many people in this new romance period are not talking on Facebook at all, but I think they’ll be back.

I’ll go to Google+ once a day to see who is coming up on a book release or is having a frustrating revision, since the topics are currently so focused. But I’ll go to Facebook again and again to find the funny viral videos, the update on a friend in the hospital, and to complain about Google+

Hooray for rain!

bullcreek.jpgI was so thrilled to wake up this morning to a raging storm! I’ve been a little worried about having enough of a waterfall for the Bull Creek Outdoor Portrait Special coming up.

And here it came! I didn’t even mind getting out in gale winds and a downpour this morning.

If you’ve never seen the images I take at Bull Creek–you’ve gotta go look. It’s an amazing location. I even held a Nature Write In there with some fellow NaNoWriMo novelists last November that was featured on

The special is $95 and includes a portfolio of images that you get to keep. It runs from March 8-20 and April 18-20.

Conceiving a Baby Plan


Oh, I had a great time at the Bellies & Babies seminar last week! I learned some really simple things I should have already known after nine years in the baby photo business (warm up the props with a hair dryer before lying a naked baby down!) And some really amazing poses–a few that I already did and others I will add to the repertoire.

But the main thing was that Sandy had a Baby Plan I could live with.

See, many of you moms would come to me, upset at some other photographer you felt “locked in” with because you bought a plan. And I vowed never to let that happen to me. So I never offered a plan.

Then a funny thing happened–over and over you all asked for one with me!

new17-mid.jpgI have whole-heartedly adopted Sandy’s version of the plan, which is flexible enough that you can drop by Sears if you just can’t make it in without feeling you lost something, but discounted enough that it’s worth your while to prepay.

Here’s the scoop! You can always learn more at the Baby Plan page on the web site.

The Baby Plan includes the following sittings, image, and discounts:

~ Three portrait sessions with Deanna at 3 months, 6 months and 1 year (regularly $65 each)
~ One 10×20 mounted composite image showcasing your three favorite poses from the year (regularly $110)
~ Free Madonna portrait sitting of mother and child if baby brought prior to six weeks ($65)
~ 1/2 Price Maternity Sitting Fee and 20% off Maternity Images
~ 50% off the Year of Baby Story Book and DVD (save $250)

Baby, oh Baby!

babies-bellies-special-button.jpgI am verrrry excited about the Babies and Bellies special coming up.

I decided to go to a workshop in San Antonio geared toward maternity and newborn photography, and I want to do it all–now!

Maternity shoots vary so much between the serene peace-mama images and the silly kiss-the-belly (or even paint-the-belly) variety. They are all fun and lovely, and it’s up to Mom to decide how to portray her pregnancy memories.

mat04-mid.jpgNewborns are a whole different animal! Some moms will be in and out in half an hour, as their sleepy babies snooze right through. That is, however, only one out of ten moms.

The rest of you will be here close to two hours, soothing an unhappy infant who doesn’t want to be set down for anything! In those cases we tend to average, oh, two shots every twenty minutes. But always, a magical thing happens, and baby finally gets through a bout of hunger or upset tummy, and settles into a calm alert phase. 80% of your shots will be taken during that golden fifteen minutes. It always happens. We just have to be patient!

I’ve spent the lanew14-mid.jpgst ten days working on the Story Book Albums. I’m halfway through a sample album for Elizabeth. Since I’ve finally gotten a handle on making the backgrounds, setting the text, creating new photo edges, and hammering out the custom cover specs, hopefully future ones will go a *little* faster. I’ll be putting up a gallery showing her entire book when I’m done. Along with the Babies and Bellies special, moms who come will get a coupon for 50% off the price of the story books.

The special runs through February and with the $65 sitting fee, you will get a free 8×10 and three baby book prints (you choose 4×5 or 5×7 size.) Saves you $78! The special is for pregnant mamas or babies up to six months. (No worries moms with older babies–your specials are coming up!) If you’re pregnant but this is the wrong time for you, or if you’ve been looking for a baby shower gift, you can buy a $65 Babies and Bellies gift certificate and still get the free prints any time between now and Sept. 30.

I can’t wait to photograph all these happy beginnings!

Best Place to Buy Books

globe.jpgI love books. You’d expect that, as I am a writer. But I also love innovative business ideas, especially ones with an eco or charity element. You can’t get any more perfect than A Better World.

I received a gift certificate to A Better World for helping with National Novel Writing Month. Last night I logged in and was amazed at the enormous selection of used books, CDs, and DVDs you could get–many under $5, and free shipping in the US–eco shipping, they call, it, as they search for shipping methods that leave the smallest carbon footprint. You can also ship anywhere in the world for $3 per book. Each title you drop in your shopping cart will list the charity that benefits from your purchase.

For my $15 gift certificate I bought four books. I can’t recommend this site more highly for classic or out of print books.

Naturally, though, for living authors trying to make enough money to keep writing, I recommend you buy new copies to support them (or ask your library to purchase a copy for you and others to enjoy)–and the best case is if you can support a local independent book store.

I bought some Roald Dahl and a couple books blog readers had recommended, and a classic short story collection. Merry Christmas to me!

RIP Tickle Monster

web-oldlambswoolduster.jpgFor the entire eight years I have been a photographer, one piece of equipment never failed me.

I’d blown out lights, broken cameras, dropped flashes. I’d gone through monitors, backdrops, and umbrellas.

But the tickle monster remained.

I know, some kids didn’t like him. But they were rare. Most thrilled to his funny lambswool fuzzies. They giggled and grasped at him. I got smiles when we thought there could be none.

But he’s gone.

It’s my fault, totally. I left him hanging in a tree at Boulder Park during the snowman shoots. Left like an old shoe. He deserved better.

web-newticklemoster.jpgExcept now I have a BETTER one! And he’s BLUE! Like Cookie Monster!

I LOVE my new tickle monster.

And so do babies!

(But I still feel bad for forgetting the old one.)

Come see him!

Ho Ho HA!

webbestgirls6451redpants1.jpgSuccess! Hard won. Fought for. Struggled with. But success!

For those of you following the Ho Ho Ho prop debacle, boy, this has been the year for making difficult props. I swear next year I’m going to hop on to some photography online store and buy ready-made stuff. But probably by next November, I will have totally forgotten about my grapevine snowman craziness and the glitter explosions for Ho Ho Ho, and insist that yes, I will make my own things and not go with store-bought scenes.

Nobody hold me to that, though.

Here is Ho Ho Ho in all its glory. You can run it in color, or, as I also envisioned, take it in black and white with hand colored letters (and hats, if you went for hats!) I chose the black and white version as a sample card.webcard.jpg

This year I also have new ornaments and a new textured style card–oh it’s beautiful!

Here are all your links to get straight to where you need to go in preparation for photographs.

See the new ornaments and another Ho Ho Ho sample, as well as all the holiday options.

Go straight to the holiday schedule to choose your appointment time. You can call or email me with your choice.

I can’t wait to see how your little ones have grown!

Shootin’ Frenzy

webbullcreekcover.jpgThis is the time of year things really start to get crazy. In October, it’s outdoor sittings, in webh662.jpgNovember, we will switch to studio shots, Santas, Christmas trees, and presents!

The fun part of October is to watch the seasons change, as always happens during this fall special. We start out in the 90s, familiweb052.jpges sweating in their long slewebw941.jpgeves to make their holiday cards look right (even though we could very well be wearing shorts for Thanksgiving.) Then it always happens that just before the final weekend of the special, we get a cold snap. And today was it!web5135.jpg

I’ll find out in the morning if I need towebn782.jpg cancel my Tuesday shoots at the park due to rain–cross your fingers that the weather tidies up just a touch. We’ve had lots of rain this year, and hopefully that means a beautiful bluebonnet season again in the spring.

But here are lots of examples of some of the images I’ve taken so webb108cover.jpgfar at the special, some at people’s homes, some at Bull Creek, and webf5033bw-joy.jpgothers nearby in a neighborhood park.

Thanks to all the families who’ve been coming. We’ve really had a lot of fun with the shoots and phooey on Zilker–who needs the crowds, the hard time parking, and certainly the unexpected $50 fee to shoot there. Yes, it’s lovely, but so is most of Austin. We just live in a beautiful town.