Thursday, May 21, 2015

Two New Picture Books

Today is an exceptionally great day for me. I actually have two new picture books coming out. I tried not to have them come out around the same times but it just didn't work out that way. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad since it's never happened to me before. However, it just makes me doubly happy and more to celebrate!

My new picture book from Futureword Publishing titled Hippo Bottomless has just been finalized and will be available on amazon in just a few days. Woot Woot!!

Echo can't swim like his other Hippo friends. All he does is splash, splash, splash as he sinks, sinks, sinks to the cold murky bottom. Can some friends he meets along the way help or is he destined to spend his life sinking to the bottom, bottom, bottom.

My second picture book coming out by Mascot Publishing titled The Color of Love has also just been finalized but will take probably about a month to become available. This will be my first hard-back book which I've dreamed of for so long. This is a feel-good bedtime type story which has been a long time coming. Try three years to be exact. However, it was originally supposed to be a personalized book by Frecklebox but that fell through the cracks for various reasons. I was bound and determined to get it published though so I "bit the bullet" and decided to self-publish it. I did my research, talked to several authors in my writer's group and decided on Mascot Publishing because they produce quality books and I knew they were legit and easy to work with. I also found a great new illustrator in my writer's group who is a retired school teacher and was ready to finally pursue her dream of being an illustrator. The Color of Love is now her second children's picture book.

Denny asks his mother, "If the sun is yellow and clouds are white, what color is love?" Follow Denny and his mother as they jump on board their magic carpet to find the answer!

For those of you interested in purchasing an autographed copy of Hippo Bottomless, just let me know. I will have some by June 3rd. If you want to order through Amazon, it should be up and loaded within 3-5 days.

And have no fear, as soon as The Color of Love is officially available, I'll be announcing it on Facebook.

Thanks to everyone for their support!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Character Development

How many of you writers do any kind of character building before you begin a story? The answer to that for me is...sometimes. And other times, I just start writing and the character falls into place. However, on those times that I struggle for just the right character, I begin building one.

Sometimes I get on the internet and start looking at pictures of little kids (no I'm not a stalker) or animals. It helps me to look at their faces, their expressions, the way they dress. From those photos, I can begin to think about what characteristics, flaws, quirks and personality I want them to have. And then I start jotting down all my ideas.

But I have to admit that 50% of those times, I draw a blank and could really use some help. If you are like me and need help once in awhile, I've come across a software program that really looks great. It was introduced to me by Jon Bard of the CBI Clubhouse/Write for Kids. And like him and his wife, Laura, I love to share what little knowledge I have with other writers. So below is a link where Jon is describing this software and walks you through some of the steps. It really looks like it could be beneficial and is very reasonably priced. Check it out!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lunch Shaming

My intention for today's blog was to write something that had to do with writing, however as I was watching the news this morning, I became so enraged that I knew what I had to write about today.

There was a story about a child who's mother ran out of fruits and vegetable so she packed a few Oreo cookies in her lunch. "Yay!" the little four yr. old probably thought
as she opened her lunch box. But to that child's surprise, she was not allowed to eat them. Instead, her lunch box was returned to her parents with the cookies in it and a note that preached healthy eating.

So I guess it's better to have your child attend school hungry than to put a "poisonous" cookie in their mouth! I am not a parent, however if I was the parent of that child I would be livid. When has a few Oreos ever killed a kid? And are we saying now that parents don't even have any say so in what goes in their own child's lunch? Some parents can't afford all the healthy snacks all the time. Or they don't have time to run to the story every time they run out! And by tomorrow, a study will come out saying that "supposed" health snack is no longer healthy anyway!!

I do believe parents should try including a healthy snack whenever possible but I know that when I was a child, that healthy snack is the one thing that would've gone straight into the trash. My mother always packed a sandwich, a fruit or vegetable and probably either a bag of chips or a dessert. I always ate it all, except most times that fruit or vegetable didn't get eaten. And guess what? I'm still alive! And I was never 1 lb. overweight growing up.

What I'd really like to know is, who knew those cookies were in that box? Does the school have "lunch" cops watching every thing that goes into every kids lunch box? Or are the teachers snooping in all the kids lunch boxes while they are out on recess? Who has time for that? Why can't we trust the child's parents to know what's best for their own kid?

This world is going too far. Parents aren't even allowed to discipline their children anymore without fear that their child will be taken from them or they'll wind up in jail for child abuse. And we wonder why so many children are in trouble today?

Don't get me wrong, I think there are many parents out there that should not be raising kids. I'm thankful when an abusive, neglective parent is caught and the child is taken from them. But I strongly disagree that in today's world it doesn't seem like a parent is allowed to raise their own children in the way they see fit as long as it's a safe environment. Giving a child an Oreo cookie once in awhile is not abusive!

We have so many children in the world that are out there starving to death and might live one day longer if they had one of those cookies to eat. But our 'warped' society chooses to throw that cookie away because it has a little sugar in it. Why oh why can't we let kids be kids while they still can!!

I for one would love to go eat a few Oreos right this minute but I'm an adult, therefore I know that I can't afford those extra pounds it will put on me. But a four yr. old child should be allowed to eat one and enjoy it for the rest of us!!

Here's the article if anyone is interested. I'm curious what you other parents are thinking about this.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Believability in Fiction

Are you confused by what believability means when writing fiction? I for one, don't fully get it.

Why does fiction have to be believable? It's untrue. It's our imaginations and who's to say what we or others think is believable?

How can you write a story about talking animals and make any of it believable? And yet, there are millions of books out there with talking animals. I recently saw an article that said when writing with talking animals you must make sure what happens in the story is something that kids can relate to. To me, that is contradictory. A kid can relate to an animal talking but can't relate to a story about an animal who is running a newspaper office. Why? Because that animal is an adult. I was informed by an instructor in a class I took, that the main character should never be an adult.

But so many of the great fairy tales from long ago were written with the main protagonist as an adult. For instance, Beauty and the Beast, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Dragon Painter and the Emperors New Clothes just to name a few.

In another class, I wrote a story about a talking dog. The teacher had no problems with that but then told me the way the dog interracted with the cat, wasn't believable. Huh? 

I know that publishers don't like it when animals talk to people so I stay away from that as much as possible. However, I recently had a story published Kailee Finds Magic IN Words where a chipmunk is talking to the little girl. However, I explained in the book that the chipmunk could only talk because he was inside the book and the author wrote it that way. The publisher accepted that reasoning.

But one thing I have learned is whenever I have talking animals in a story, I write them so they can only talk to other animals. When they talk to humans, it's in animal verbage.

This to me falls in the lines with believability as well. It's ok to have a person turn into a monkey, but not to have that monkey talk to a person?? I'm really confused with this.

So, I've just learned to write as I see it. If someone questions it, then it probably is an indication that others will too and especially a publisher, so I normally change it.

That's why it's so important to have your work edited by someone who is an expert in the genre you're writing for and to also be a member of a critique group. It's amazing the things they can help you with. They sometimes catch things you yourself would have never caught. Therefore, that's one more step closer to getting the story right and finding a publisher.

But...I'm still confused about what's believable when writing fiction and what isn't. So if any of you have some words of wisdom that can help clear it up for me, please speak up or forever hold your peace!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Zodiac Killer's Son

Over the weekend, I attended an Authors Row Event at our local library. If you're an author and have done library book signings, you're aware that they aren't very profitable. People come to the library to get free books, not to spend money. Those events are mainly just to get your face out there. The best thing about those are that I've never attended one yet where I didn't leave without meeting a great contact of some kind. Sometimes it was just new authors to talk to or connect with on facebook or a teacher who is interested in me coming to their school.

This latest book event was probably the most fascinating for me because I got to meet the actual son of the Zodiac Killer. He has written a book about his life as the son of a murderer and what he has gone through to try and prove that the Zodiac Killer is indeed his father.

Although five murders were proven to be committed by the Zodiac Killer in 1968-69 in northern California, it has never fully been proven who the Zodiac Killer is. This is a note the Zodiac Killer left for the police.


His son, Gary Stewart is convinced the Zodiac Killer was his father, Earl Van Best, Jr., who died in 1984. It's his life's missiion to prove this 100%. The picture below is a mug shot of Earl Van Best, Jr. when he was arrested for raping Gary's mother. The photo on the right is an artist sketch of the Zodiac Killer from one of his surviving victims.

As I was listening to Gary telling me a little bit about his story, I found myself mesmerized. What would it be like to have a father that was a serial killer? And why was I so fascinated with this? I wondered if there was something wrong with me because I was so honored to be speaking with him.

At the same time, I realized I was a little terrified. What if Gary inherited some of his fathers desire to kill and he was right here talking to me! 

Then I felt guilty that I felt so honored and excited to be talking to a New York Times Best Selling author who was in the works of having the movie made. Would the families of the victims be ashamed that I was feeling this way?

All kinds of emotions were going through me. Even those of jealousy. Here was a man who never wanted to write a book and has no desire to write anything else, and yet he's sold thousands of books and is having a movie made. So many of us writers who practice our craft everyday dream of having just a little taste of this fame that fell into his lap.

However, I would rather be an unknown author than go through what Gary has gone through by having the biological parents that he did. Thankfully, Gary was adopted by wonderful parents and never even met his biological father. Unless you count the 4 wks after he was born and then abandoned on a stairwell of a Baton Rouge apartment building.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I'm a writer and other writers fascinate me no matter their story. So I bought his book and had a picture of me taken with him. He really was a nice man who was brave enough to take the bad situation of his life and turn it into something good by getting his story out there and not hiding in shame or pity. I do admire him for that! And I can't wait to finish his book.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter In Different Countries

Can you believe it's already time for Easter? It has definitely thrown me for a loop and just sort of jumped on board! I've had so much going on the first quarter of 2015 that I must say, my mind just wasn't prepared for it.

However, when I used to go into the office everyday, I would have been counting the days until the holiday because I usually got Good Friday off. I know that's terrible but when you don't get many days off, that's on top of your list of things to look forward to.

But now that I work from home, it's more difficult to keep up with the holidays. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to see what other countries do to celebrate Easter. So I found an interesting article from Woman's Day that I thought I'd share with you.

Kids in the U.S. grow up expecting a delivery of eggs and candy from the Easter bunny each year, but it may seem odd to an outsider. Brought to this country by German immigrants in the 1700s, the practice is rooted in the belief that rabbits and eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth. While this may be the norm in America, however, other cultures have their their own, unique Easter celebrations. Whether it's drenching one another with water in Poland or reading crime novels in Norway, check out 10 Easter traditions from around the globe and the history behind them.

Children in this Scandinavian country go begging in the streets with sooty faces and scarves around their heads, carrying broomsticks, coffeepots and bunches of willow twigs. In some parts of Western Finland, people burn bonfires on Easter Sunday, a Nordic tradition stemming from the belief that the flames ward off witches who fly around on brooms between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition called Smingus-Dyngus. On Easter Monday, boys try to drench other people with buckets of water, squirt guns or anything they can get their hands on. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year. The refreshing tradition has its origins in the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 AD.

Don't forget a fork if you're in the southern French town of Haux, France on Easter Monday. Each year a giant omelet is served up in the town's main square. And when we say giant, we mean giant: The omelet uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. The story goes, when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelets. Napoleon liked his so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelet for his army the next day. 

Easter is such a popular time for Norwegians to read crime novels that publishers actually come out with special "Easter Thrillers" known as Paaskekrimmen. The tradition is said to have started in 1923 when a book publisher promoted its new crime novel on the front pages of newspapers. The ads resembled news so much that people didn't know it was a publicity stunt.

Traveling to these Eastern European countries over Easter? If so, you'd better watch your back! There's an Easter Monday tradition in which men spank women with handmade whips made of willow and decorated with ribbons. According to legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring, so the branches are supposed to transfer the tree's vitality and fertility to the women. This playful spanking is all in good fun and isn't meant to cause pain.

That's just a few ways that different countries celebrate Easter. Who would of "thunk", right?

So, how do you plan to celebrate?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Photo Tells a Thousand Stories

The other day I was gathering photo's of my dad for the video we are going to show at his memorial. As I looked through them, I realized that photo's tell a thousand stories!

One photo I came across, wasn't of my dad but of my oldest sister. Since I've been writing, I've been telling people that I am not the typical writer. I didn't dream of writing all my life. In fact, I didn't even like to read when I was small. But seeing this photo made me realize how wrong I was. I've actually been telling stories all my life! I just didn't put them on paper. Look at this photo.

Ooooh, scary, right! This is a photo from a video that we did. My family had gotten together for Thanksgiving one year at my parents house and everyone could come except my sister and brother from Virginia. I thought it would be fun to do a video for them since they had to spend the holiday alone. So I made up a story and the rest of us acted it out. Of course you can guess it was a murder mystery of "Who Dun It!" Each family member was very suspiciously killed off throughout the video and didn't know who could possibly be doing it. Turned out, the only member left at the end was Rinky Dink...the family dog! Ha ha, that was so much fun.

Here's a good one of my dad. It looks like he's just holding up something patriotic, right? Well this picture tells a much better story. This was either my dads birthday or Father's Day. I couldn't get him to say he wanted anything except some underwear!! So I decided to grant his wish, however not in the boring manner of just opening a box with underwear in it. I spiced it up (thanks Courtney) and decorated them with all this patriotic stuff because my dad was a very patriotic man and served in the army long ago. He got such a kick out of the way I dressed up his panties that they just had to take a photo of it. 

So you see, photo's are more than just photo's, they tell stories! And this one was magic to me.

This next one is just a photo of a little girl, right? Well no, it's me when I was in kindergarten. And there's a very funny story from this. I have an old school friend who told me that he still remembers (58 yrs later) when I walked into kindergarten looking like this, He thought I was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen! Can you believe that? Well at least I know that I was beautiful one day of my life!

Here's a funny one of my mom. This proves she was born to be a writer and storyteller too! She's so desperate, she's reading to the dog!

Here she is reading to yet another dog! Can you imagine what he's thinking? "Oh mom, am I really supposed to be caring about this crap!"

I can't tell you how many times when I've experienced writer's block, that I go back and look at pictures. They really do tell a thousand different stories.

So let's have some fun. Take a look at the photo below. Can you tell me what these people are looking at? Why is one taking a photo, one looks like she's running away and the other is looking towards the sky. Oh the stories we could come up with!