Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Be Back in a Few Weeks! :)

I just realized that I never did my official "see you in a while" post. ;) I'm taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog, two weeks minimum, possibly three or four weeks maximum.

Hubby has the rest of this week off before he goes back to work, so I want to spend as much time with him as I can while he's on vacation. :) That, and work on a few house projects together (if I can convince him). ;)

I'm also trying to get back into the school schedule. The adjustment hasn't been too painful so far, but it takes a while to get used to those early mornings and homework-filled afternoons again. ;)

I'll continue slowly going through my collection and doing eBay listings. The next batch will be up this Saturday.

And, of course, I'll be working on my book, getting it ready to submit by early October, Lord willing.

I hope you all have a fabulous few weeks. Talk to all of you again in September! :D

Friday, August 19, 2016

Writer's Corner: Rejection and What it Taught Me

So, it's been a while since I've updated you guys on my writing. There are a couple of reasons for that.

For one thing, with our summer schedule, the craziness of Hubby's working hours, and the fact that the girls were home 24/7, I really didn't do much writing this summer. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that I did no writing this summer, aside from blogging.

The other reason is that I didn't really feel like writing. I received my first official rejection from a literary agent in June. And as you can imagine, that was a little rough. Okay, it was REALLY rough.

I realize, of course, that rejection is an expected part of any hopeful writer's life. But as we all know, there's a difference between knowing something in your head and actually experiencing it. What stung the most is that the way in which I was rejected made it clear that my work had not met the mark of the agent's expectations. That was tough to swallow.

I really floundered for a while as I tried to process everything. I thought over different ways I could have worded my proposal or story that might have changed the agent's mind. I had my share of tears, emotional eating, and of long, anguished conversations with family and friends. I did a lot of soul-searching, struggled with self-doubt, and questioned both my writing and blogging and where I should take it next.

The rejection, coupled with some unexpected financial difficulties that came up this summer and some tough physical problems that I'd been dealing with, made for a tough couple of months.

After a few weeks, I talked things over with one of my local writing friends. She read over my proposal and first several chapters, and gave me some excellent feedback. But even with all of these new ideas of where I needed to go with the story, I felt like I needed to let things simmer a little bit. Then, when the girls were back in school, I would start making the changes in earnest, attacking my manuscript and getting it to the place it needed to be.

The girls have been in school for one week. During that time, I decided to scrap two characters from the first book (bringing them in later in the series instead), kill off one child (not literally, she just doesn't exist anymore), send an entire family to my bad guy's dungeon, and decided to cut the first seven or eight chapters from my book. My hope is that these changes will help simplify the story and keep the plot rushing forward like it's supposed to.

I'm also hoping to save up for a professional edit of at least part of the book from one of my instructors from Mount Hermon. (Yet another reason for my eBay listings.) ;) She writes the same genre as I do (speculative fiction), so she should have some excellent feedback and tips for me.

So, that is where the story stands as of this moment. But as for the title of this blog post, what did all of this teach me?

1. It's okay to be disappointed about rejection. When I first received my rejection email, I was trying so hard to be brave and stoic and muscle through it. There are some writers I know who have had fourteen or more rejections before ever getting accepted. Some never do. It's just the way it is. The publishing world is a tough place, and for every J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, there are thousands of writers who dream big and never make the cut. I realize that, and so I tried to just move ahead with no emotional reaction. But as my dear writing friend Sarah reminded me, it's okay to grieve!

Rejection hurts. For a writer, there's something so painful about having your work rejected. It feels like someone is rejecting one of your children. This is something you toiled and labored over. Part of you is embedded into those words. Parts of your soul, your emotions, and your life experiences are hidden in those pages. It's okay to long as you don't get stuck there.

2. Be willing to learn. None of us have arrived, especially those of us who are just beginning something new to us. We need to be humble, willing to accept that our work is not always as fabulous as we think or hope it is. We can't stubbornly cling to things that seem so imperative to us when many writer friends around us are saying, "you might want to consider changing that." It's important to consider the advice of those who have "been there, done that."

That being said, as we learn and grow as writers, there will be times when it's okay to stand by parts of our writing we feel strongly about, even if others think we should change it. This is one of the hardest parts of writing for me, because as a new writer, I always feel like I automatically need to follow every bit of advice I get from more experienced writers. The problem is, everyone has a different opinion. So if you follow everyone's advice, you'll end up confused and frustrated.

I'm not an expert by far, but I've found a good rule of thumb is to carefully (and prayerfully) consider each suggestion that comes your way, paying special attention to things that more than one person has seen as a problem. But ultimately, it comes down to each individual writer to decide what to do with his or her own work.

I think the main key is having an attitude of humility. Being confident in your work is okay as long as you're still teachable, striving to do your best in everything and willing to accept when you've made a mistake.

3. Rejection doesn't necessarily mean the end. It just might lead to a brand new beginning. Of course, I never would have chosen rejection. My preference would have been immediate acceptance, quick publication, a trip to the top of the bestseller list, and millions of copies sold worldwide. Hey, I can dream! ;) Many who write probably have similar fantasies. But just because we wish for something doesn't mean it's the best thing for us, or for our writing.

As I've struggled, talked to others, and received feedback on my writing over these past couple of months, one of the things I've realized is that this whole situation pushed me to analyze my story in a way I wasn't willing to before. There were characters I was deeply attached to, plotlines and chapters that I adored. I was told again and again how often writers need to "kill their darlings," to cut things that don't make the story work. I knew that. Deep in the back of my mind I had an inkling that some of these story elements weren't really working, but I was so deeply attached to them, I didn't feel I could change them.

My main character is basically me in a lot of ways. She has my reactions, my emotions, my thoughts. So to change anything about her, her family, or her setting seemed like cutting a part of me away. But as my friend Sarah once again reminded me, my main character is NOT me. She can have parts of me, but nothing about her character should be so "important" that it gets in the way of the story.

I feel like the rejection I got finally brought me to the point where I was ready to objectively step back, take a look at my work, and let go of things that weren't moving the story forward. I am so incredibly excited to see where this newfound determination to get to the heart of the story will take me.

My book has gone through dramatic changes over the course of the years, and each one has brought it closer to the story it is meant to be. I've learned so much from this journey already. My writing has improved immensely from going to writer's conferences, getting feedback from others, and desiring above all else to excel at my craft. I cannot wait to see where this adventure leads. Whether the end result is traditional publishing, a self-published novel, or even a simple spiral-bound book for my friends and family at Christmas, so be it. But no matter what the outcome, I want to know that I have held nothing back, that I have left everything on the page and done my absolute best. 

So thank you to the unnamed agent who changed the course of my summer. I truly believe you sent me that rejection with good reason and with my best interest at heart. And I hope that, if you ever get the chance to read my book someday, you'll be pleased with the changes I've made. Even if that doesn't happen, I'll always be grateful that you gave me that extra push I needed to make my work the best it could be. :)

A preview of some character concept art for your viewing pleasure: 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

EBay Listings, Upcoming Post, and other Randomness

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Hope your week's going well, and that those of you who are back in school or have kiddos back in school are adjusting to the change in schedule without too much trouble. ;)

My girls were excited for their first day. Little Gal (on the left) is in 3rd grade this year, Oldest Gal is in 7th (and looking WAAYYY too old!), and Middle Gal (on the right) is in 5th.

P.S. Please excuse my messy floor. I got all three girls dressed, ready, and off to school EARLY with nothing left behind at home. I didn't have time to clean my floor. I guess I haven't reached Super Mom status yet. ;)

A nice outdoor picture. I realize the posing is kind of awkward in this one, but we were lucky to get ANY outdoor pictures and still be on time for school. ;) The pics from the front were a lot cuter. :)

I celebrated my first day with kiddos at school by going out to lunch with my mom and aunt (Mom's treat). This delicious concoction is known as a "Buddha Bowl" at one of our local restaurants. It had rice, red beans, cabbage, avacado, cilantro, falafel, and a delicious Asian dressing. Yum!! :)

I'm working on my next post for you, which should be up by the end of the week. In the meantime, I thought I'd let you know that the first of my eBay listings for the summer/fall is up. Finances are tight, and I have several big things to save for, so some of my extras have to go.

Thankfully, I have enough surplus that I can start with the things I'm not as attached to...thrift store rescues, duplicates, and that sort of thing. ;) It's mostly ponies at this point, but I'll be listing some doll related things next time around. (It's been a while since I've done eBay, and tiny, easy-to-ship My Little Ponies are always a good way to ease back into things.) ;)

I thought I'd mention this on the blog in case any of you were interested. You can see all of my current listings HERE.

My first few things to save for are my deposit for my gym class, fees for a professional edit for my book, and funds for my church's Ladies Retreat coming up in September. Then it's the rest of my Mount Hermon tuition, a possible second writing conference, and (probably in the distant-ish future) a trip to Arizona to visit my best friend since childhood. :)

Yikes! I've got to get a move on and finish going through my stuff! ;)

And, just to tide you over, I thought I'd share a few random pics of some of the fun toy finds around town I've seen lately. Maybe you've seen some of these, too!

Disney Princess Little Kingdom "Royal Friends Collection," which consists entirely of pets and sidekicks. We especially love Pascal, Gus Gus, and Mushu. :)

The two newest Made to Move Barbies are starting to show up in stores! :D Oldest Gal bought the one on the left. It happens to be the perfect skin tone for a body swap I need. I promised Oldest Gal I wouldn't decapitate her doll, though. ;D

Twilight Sparkle's oak tree from the newest "Nightmare Night" themed blind bag series has appeared on shelves (sorry for the blurry picture). While we don't do as much with Nightmare Night since we don't celebrate Halloween, I'm looking forward to the Cutie Mark Crusaders release so I can FINALLY have all three of them (Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle appear to have removable costumes). I'm also looking forward to the Princess Luna set, because she is so incredibly detailed. :)

I forgot to get pictures, but I also have found the Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon "Guardians of Harmony" toys. Can't wait for Shining Armor and Spike! :D 

Blind Bag Palooza!!! :D

We're loving this new blind bag section in our newly-remodeled local Walmart. :D

Some of the new My Mini MixieQ's sets are showing up, too, like this adorable Neon Arcade Playset...

...and this super fun Fairy Land Fashion pack with all sorts of costumes.

A closer look. :)

The vintage-style Strawberry Shortcake dolls are starting to appear in Target. The scent is still the yucky new scent instead of the wonderful one I grew up with, but the dolls are just adorable. :)

I think the Strawberry and Huckleberry Pie set is my favorite, although I'm bummed that they made his hat cloth instead of plastic like the original. 

Our local Target has lots of fun new mini Lori dolls. We even found a boy doll named Evan! :)

And we LOVED this mini food set from the Lori line.  

The mini Our Generation dolls are back, too.

And check out this adorable ice cream truck for the full-sized Our Generation dolls!

We recently discovered "Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir." The girls have been loving the episodes, so much so that Middle Gal and Little Gal decided to buy these Ladybug and Cat Noir action figures with their spending money. We've had many adventures since, as you can imagine. ;) 

I personally prefer the French audio with English subtitles, but I'm kind of a purist that way. ;) (I feel the same way with the original Japanese audio of "The Borrower Arrietty" and other similar films.) So much tends to get lost in translation with dubbing...

I guess that's about all for now! Happy school days, happy shopping, happy end of summer. :) More to come later in the week! :)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Shopkins Happy Places Surprise Delivery Blind Bag Packs and Happy Home Playset

It's time for the third and final installment of the Shopkins Happy Places sets. :) (Click HERE for Part One and HERE for Part Two.)

Like all of the Shopkins, the Happy Places lines comes with a set of blind bags, called "Surprise Delivery." They retail for $2.99 each. I love that the boxes they come in look like shipping boxes. ;)

They open with a tab on the top...

...and include two room tiles...

...and three surprise Petkins.

They also come with a brochure.

My box was from the Kitty Kitchen, and included Detergent...

...a Washing Brush, and a Washing Tub (the picture of the tub was blurry).

Here are all three of the items that came together.

So, the great thing about the way the blind bags are packaged is that they always come in a set. (At least, all of the ones we've gotten so far have been that way.) ;) All three Petkins come from the same room, and often go together, like the ones pictured above. 

My mom has purchased several of the blind bags, so I thought I'd share pics of some of the different ones we've ended up with.

Here are all the blind bag items we've gotten from the Kitty Kitchen (including the detergent, washing tub, and washing brush pictured earlier).

And here they are in the groups they came in:

Teapot, Kettle, and Teacup

Bread Bin, Loaf of Bread, and Scales

Here are all of the Puppy Parlor blind bag Petkins we've collected.

Stereo, Music Player, and Speaker

Magazine Rack, Magazine, and Cactus Pot Plant

Side Table, Phone, and Book

Here are the Sleepy Bear bedroom Petkins.

Make Up Box, Camera, and Lamp

Photo, Photo Frame, and Camera

Hat, Hair Brush, and Diary

Jewelry Box, Ring, and Hat

The itty bitty ring Petkin is another example of some of the extremely tiny Petkins in these sets.

So small!

And finally, the Bathing Bunny bathroom Petkins.

Tissue Box, Tissue, and...I'm not sure. It almost looks like the pot for the Violet Pot Plant, but if so, I'm not sure what happened to the violet. :} Or it might be the mini bin, which is listed but not pictured in the brochure.

Toothbrush, Toothbrush Holder, and Glass

The toothbrush holder has spots for four different toothbrushes, and there appear to be four different colors of toothbrush Petkins.

Sponge, Soap Dish, and Soap

Mouth Wash, Moisturizer, and Sponge

Hand Soap, Toothbrush, and Glass

Bubble Bath, Soap Dish, and Soap

Just like the regular Shopkins line, the Happy Places Petkins appear to have two color variations for each Petkin. Some Petkins, like the toothbrushes, have four. Using the brochure to identify them can be a little tricky. Only one color of each Petkin is pictured, and the color variants have different identifying numbers. However, the variants are not listed next to each other on the list. Even though there are colored boxes next to each numbered Petkin on the list to help you identify its color, it's still a bit confusing and time-consuming to find everything. It would be nice if they had all of the same items of different colors listed next to each other on the list for ease of identification.

We've had a lot of fun opening these blind bags and have enjoyed the cute and incredible detail on each of the Petkins. :)


Last of all, we have the Happy Places "Happy Home" playset. This set includes a mini Shoppie-sized dollhouse, a set of Puppy Parlor furniture, and an exclusive Popette mini Shoppie. It retails for $29.99.

Box details, front and back:

The picture above gives another great visual guide to the differences between the sets offered in the line.

Here is the Happy Home and everything it includes. As you can see, you get fewer Petkins in the Puppy Parlor than you do in the Welcome Packs (since this time you get a house, too).

Here is adorable Popette. This is Little Gal's favorite mini Shoppie. Too bad she's only available with the $30 house set. ;)

The Happy Home from the front...

...and the back.

Here it is from the two sides:

Each of the four rooms in the house correspond with the four different room themes we've seen in the other playsets. 

We have the bedroom for the "Dreamy Bear" Petkins...

...the bathroom for the "Bathing Bunny" Petkins...

...the living room for the "Puppy Parlor" Petkins...

...and the kitchen for the "Kitty Kitchen" Petkins.

The living room includes a fish tank...

...that can slide in and out.

There are four different types of room tiles that come with each of the other playsets. As you can probably guess, each of these correspond with one of the four rooms of the house.

The pink tiles have the same floor pattern as the bedroom.

The purple tiles have the same floor pattern as the kitchen.

The green tiles match the bathroom...

...and the yellow tiles match the living room.

Whichever tile you get in your blind bag set determines which type of Petkins you're going to get.

The house has pegs on one side...

...and slits on the other which attach to the extra floor tiles.

So you can extend the floors, like this. The only problem is, you can't make the tiles completely meet in the front. Unless I'm totally missing something. And they can't attach vertically because the little knobs interfere with the flat front of the house flooring.

So you could also do it like this and just extend the sides of the house. 

I also noticed in one of the Happy Places commercials that they just attached four tiles together and made them little separate rooms, so that could work, too.

And extra space will definitely be needed, because the Happy Home is pretty full with just the Welcome Packs, one Decorator's Pack, and some of the blind bag Petkins we got.

A closer look at each of the rooms:

Everything looks super cute set up in the different rooms. I like that there are shelves in each of the rooms to give more display space for the Petkins. But the space is still limited. I don't think you could fit everything from all three Welcome Packs, the Puppy Parlor, and all four Decorator's Packs easily.

The Shoppies had a few visitors in their home. As you can see, it's compatible with other small doll lines, too. :)

"Love your room, Jessicake!"

"Sorry to interrupt your bath, Bubbleisha..."

"What's cookin', Coco?"

"Milli, please don't jump on the couch!"

I think the Happy Home is super cute. I don't know that I would buy it myself. Popette is adorable, but I like some of the other mini Shoppies better. And while $30 isn't a terrible price for what you get in this set, I'd rather spend the money on more accessories and just use one of the dollhouses I have already. The girls had a lot of fun playing with the Happy Home, but then had just as much fun filling up their Loving Family dollhouse with Petkins furniture. ;) 

But that's what I love about this new line. It's compatible with many of the other small doll and toy lines we have around the house, so it's not necessary to get every single thing. You can pick and choose your own favorites and make them work with other dolls and toys you have already. :)


As promised, I'd like to finish with some thoughts from the girls. :) And this time, the reviews were even typed by them (except for Middle Gal, who was too close to bedtime to type it for herself. Her review was typed by me exactly as she dictated). ;)

Oldest Gal (age 12):
     These dolls are darling, and the same goes for the furniture. The amount of detail on many of the accessories, such as the cookies fitting in the cookie jar, the oven mitt fitting on the Shoppie's hand, and the spaghetti spoon fitting in Spaghetti Sue's pot, is amazing. The posability is a little lacking; they could have done better. They could have made them bend at the elbows, pivot their head at different angles, and move their arms out to the sides and not just up and down. If their knees were able to bend, they wouldn't have been able to stand, so I won't whine about that. But that is pretty much my only complaint. I know these dolls will find their way onto a lot of shelves.

Middle Gal (age 10): 
     Applause, applause, Moose Toys! Good job. I really like how cute they are and I like how they're little and they cost less so you can buy them easier. And I like their clothing and all the detail and thought that went into this line. However, I don't think they needed to make a ring. It's just really small and I think it would probably get lost really soon. It's so small and I can't even get it on the Shoppies' fingers. But that being said, all of the tiny Petkins are very detailed. They are really very clever. I bought Melodine, and she's super cute. I like her keyboard and her music book and her dress and her hairstyle and her headband and her face and her shoes and her legs and her arms and her. :D Applause for Moose Toys!! 

Little Gal (age 8):  
     I think this new Shoppies line is awesome!!!But, the Happy Home is REAL small without any tiles.and you can't add any on the top! And Popette ONLY comes with the Happy Home!G!!!! ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But  they're awesome !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love, love, love, love, love them!!!!!!!!!

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone! I hope you enjoyed taking a look at this fun new line. 

For more info on the Shopkins Happy Places, you can check out their official Facebook PageInstagram, and YouTube Channel. They can be purchased in stores or at the TargetToysRUs, and Walmart websites.

For those of you who have left comments over the past week, I apologize for not responding yet. I hope to get to that later this week. The girls start school tomorrow, so I should have a little more free time. ;)

I have one more blog post planned before my hiatus, so stay tuned. :)

I am not affiliated with Moose Toys and did not receive anything for this review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.