I'm a member of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and they held their annual Summer conference at the beginning of July. I was ready to learn at SCBWI conference! Driving to downtown Los Angeles early Friday morning is definitely not an easy go, but it gave me time to think about my goals for the conference. At last year’s conference my goal was to meet as many people I could and learn about publishing and marketing a book. They didn't have many workshops on self publishing but it was still a fun experience and I met some nice people. I also bought some great kids books in their on-site bookstore, which I devoured.
This year, my goal was to hone my craft. I had 3 variations of my 2nd manuscript on my computer and was procrastinating. I felt like I needed a little help. One of the workshops I attended was called, “Meet your character: How motivation drives the story,” taught by Kendra Levin. Now, my main character is a dog named Dash, but this dog belonged to Queen Victoria. He didn't like it when Prince Albert came along.
I was stuck in my story so I leaned into my chair, closed my eyes and did the meditation exercise Kendra led us through. Imagine you're in an elevator. The door closes and the elevator starts going down. Down, down down. Finally the door opens and you see your character walking towards you. What does your character say? What does your character want? He comes across some obstacles, so how does he solve them? So I wrote down what I envisioned Dash saying to me and came up with my big idea!
After the elevator doors opened, Dash came running with a swish swish of his fur. He looked like a mop cleaning the floor. He greeted me with a sloppy lick on my face as I kneeled down and scooped him up.
“I want to be love,” he said.
“You are loved, very much,” I replied.
“But Victoria loves Albert now. How can she love me as well?”
“We are capable of loving more than one at the same time,” I said, ” Victoria can love you and Albert because her heart is big enough for both!”
“I don't know how that's possible,” he said, “But I can try to figure it out.”
It was time for me to go, so I put Dash down and waved goodbye. I saw him walk away, mopping the floor clean as he walked. He turned around.
“I love you too,” he cried, “I guess it is possible to love more than one because I have a big heart!”
Dash loves Victoria and feels threatened by Victoria’s love for Albert. but he doesn’t know that a heart is big enough to love more than one person/thing. So Dash is jealous but slowly starts to realize that not only can Victoria love both he and Albert, he can love both Victoria and Albert. Voila! Now I just need to write it!Continue reading
I love writing book reviews. I also love cooking and raised a son who loves cooking, so much in fact that he became a chef! So when a friend of mine recommended a children's fiction chapter book about a girl and cooking, I ordered it from Amazon right there amidst my appetizer at dinner!
“All Four Stars,” by Tara Dairman is the first in a series about Gladys Gatsby, an 11-year old who loves cooking and writing and wants to become a food critic. The problem is her parents don't understand food, cooking or healthy eating and have banned her from cooking in the kitchen. Gladys is distraught but soon finds herself on a culinary adventure that brings her new friendships, tastes and fun in her fictional home town on Long Island, NY.
Ms. Dairman uses Gladys' voice to tell the story and boy, did she get an 11-year olds voice right down to the “fudge.” Her descriptive writing makes your mouth water while reading about the sites, smells and tastes in Gladys' life. I cared about Gladys and her dilemma, and wanted to keep reading to find out what happens.
If you have an aspiring chef in the house, boy or girl, between the ages 8 and 11, this book is one not to be missed!Continue reading
I finished 2 great Middle grade novels recently and I wanted to review them for you. So here are the Middle grade novels reviewed.
The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
This middle grade novel takes place during the War of 1812, between the US and Great Britain. The heroine, Lucy Bluecrowne was raised on the sea by her father, Captain Bluecrowne and captain of the Left Handed Fate. Hired by Max Ault, they are on a mission to capture the pieces of an ancient engine renown as a weapon of war. But there's other people in other countries who also want to find the hidden items to make the engine themselves.
The tale woven by author Kate Milford is one of fantasy, adventure, daring and courage. This book is one of a series by Ms. Milford, the others I haven't read. I was drawn to the book because of the title and the historical reference. I'm left handed myself and was intrigued by the references to the superstitions held in that day by sea going workers.
The book kept me interested the entire read. Many times I was afraid for the main characters as I got to know them and saw them in danger. As I'm not very sea going myself, some of the terminology was beyond my comprehension but I was still interested in the story.
You and/or your child will love this book if you like historical fiction, adventure and fantasy. It's that all rolled into one. A little bit of magic and mysticism helped move the plot along.
A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins
Last month, I did a reading at my kids' elementary school. I hadn't been back in many years and there was a new Librarian there, Carter Higgins. When she told me that she had her first novel coming out at the end of that month, I immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon.
“A Rambler Steals Home” is the story of a girl, Derby Clark who lives with her father and younger brother in an RV and spends every summer in a town called Ridge Creek (Virginia) grilling hamburgers after the local minor league baseball game. It's a sweet story with a very distinctive voice. Derby's character is deeply written and show up in her accent, her thinking and her actions. Higgins is a talented writer and portrays Derby's summer filled with traditions, old and new friends, sadness and lessons learned.
I got to know each character's personality, their quirks and their voice and you get to know the relationships between each character. I cared about each one and was intrigued as to how the story would end.
You and/or your child will love this book if you like a female heroine, baseball and good writing.Continue reading
I took the plunge today! I had my very first school visit and reading! It's so important to connect with the kids that are the readers of my book so I needed to schedule some school visits and readings. It happened to be at the elementary school my children attended many many years ago. I couldn't believe was there and that my kids have been long gone. Most of their teachers have left or retired so I didn't know as many educators as I thought I would. The school had gone through major changes as they built new buildings for classrooms, administration and parking. They expanded the library too!
I was nervous as 50 first graders came into the library. They grabbed their mats and sat on the floor in front of me. On the screen was the first illustration in the book, Thomas Jefferson petting Buzzy on the grass. A couple of the students said they had read my book. Although I doubted that was true, it still made me feel good! Their innocent faces looked at me waiting for me to begin.
I introduced myself and told them that my own kids had gone to their school. I told them that my son just graduated college and my daughter is about to graduate from law school. “What's law school?” one of the students asked. Then I asked them if they knew the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Most of them did. I asked, “Who likes History?” All hands shot up so I continued to explain how this book is “historical fiction.” I can take real people, places and times and make up a story about them. As long as I stick to some facts.
I asked who had a pet and, again, all hands shot up. One student had a frog, one had some fish, and one even had a shrimp! Hmmm. As I read the book, I noticed all eyes on the screen and me. They were entranced and engaged in the story. My worst fear went out the window!
After the 1st graders left, the Kindergarten class came in. This was 1 class with about 15 students. They were just as inquisitive and attentive as the first group.
I'm trying to set up more readings throughout Southern California. In March, I'm visiting the Chicago area and will be doing some readings there.
Stay tuned for a contest I'll be running in March!Continue reading
I've been very busy sending out print copies and download links to various reviewers. I'm getting new reviews every day, but last night (maybe it was a New Year's Eve present), I received an email from ReadersFavorite.com that my review was ready.
Today, I logged into my author account and there was a 5 star review! Here is a quote from the review:
“The story is delightful…The illustrations are lively and colorful and they breathe life into the characters and give the story a good pace and movement. The book is informative and educational as it tells readers a bit about the history of the United States and teaches them new words. The book is a good bedtime storybook for parents and grandparents and can be used for read aloud sessions in classrooms and school libraries. Buzzy’s fear of moving to a new place and missing her friends is palpable and readers can connect well with those emotions.”
How fabulous is this review! But, best of all, I'm now able to download a special 5 star seal from ReadersFavorite.com! So here it is, placed on the cover of my book.Continue reading
You can now buy a print or ebook version of our new book, “Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President's House.” Click here to buy on Amazon.
It’s 1801 and life is good for Buzzy, or so she thinks. Buzzy lives with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, but her life turns upside down when Thomas tells her that they’re moving to the President’s House. Buzzy doesn’t want to move. What will she do?
This enjoyable early chapter reader for ages 4 – 8 teaches kids about President Jefferson, the new breed of dog he brought home from France and confronting issues about moving. Historical fiction at it’s best: learning from the pets of famous people in history.
Do you need a Christmas gift for a little one in your family? We have 5 FREE copies of the ebook available! Enter our contest for your chance to win. Click here to email us the answer to this question by December 16th:
Thomas Jefferson and Buzzy had many things in common. Please email us one of the things they had in common (Hint: they're mentioned in the book).Continue reading
I decided to take a walk with the dogs this morning. I've got a lot to think about with the Buzzy launch happening on Friday. It was a crisp December morning in Los Angeles and my dog, Georgia wasn't being very cooperative in the photo. So, here's Ricky and I with our limited fall foliage.
Back to the book. The Amazon Kindle version is available now and the print version will be available on Amazon on Friday. The print version is also available for book stores and libraries to purchase through Ingram Spark, a print on demand service that most traditional publishers use for their print material.
And now onto the HARD part, marketing! My next step is to get reviews written by qualified children's book reviewers. If you know someone, please pass on my information to them. But I'm ordering about 100 copies of the book so give to reviewers and donate to schools and libraries around my home.
Watch for my next update soon!Continue reading
My first book, “Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President’s House,” will come out in October on Amazon in ebook and printed form. This early chapter reader is about Buzzy, Thomas Jefferson’s dog, moving into the White House with newly elected President Jefferson. But Buzzy loves living at Monticello and doesn’t want to move. What will she do?
To continue my research on Thomas Jefferson, I took a trip to Monticello.
My docent led tour started at the Northeast portico, which then and today serves as the front door. Directly above the door is the “Great Clock.” The clock has a dual face, one on the outside of the door and another on the inside of the door. It also tracks the days of the week and was wound every Sunday. Mr. Jefferson designed this clock to serve the residents of the house and the workers in the field.
Still standing under the portico, I looked above me and saw the “Compass Rose”, a compass connected to the weather vane on the roof. Mr. Jefferson and his family could determine the wind direction without stepping outside! This was altogether different because they didn’t have cell phones to tell them the weather!
We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but I’d like to tell you about a couple of things that stood out for me. In the dining room, Jefferson had installed a revolving serving door, which connected to the stairs leading to the kitchen. The servants could place plated dishes on the shelves and turn the door into the dining room where Jefferson or another servant could grab the plates to serve. When no servants were present inside the dining room, Jefferson had complete privacy when entertaining if needed.
Jefferson had designed his bed in the same manner as he noticed in France, when he was ambassador for 7 years. The bed was placed sideways in an alcove, which gave the room more space. It seems logical now, but in those days, no one was doing that except the French!
Jefferson wrote many letters and in 1804, acquired a device called a “Polygraph” that could duplicate his letters while he wrote them. Invented by John Isaac Hawkins, the polygraph used the principles of the pantograph, a draftsman's tool for reducing and enlarging drawings. The writer's hand moves one pen whose action is duplicated by the second one, producing a copy strikingly like the original. Because of this device, we have copies of over 11,000 letters that Jefferson wrote!
Jefferson was known for many things, but not many people know that he loved his vegetable garden. It still stands today, with many plants that grew when he was alive. In the Monticello Café, I ate sautéed kale, from kale grown in his garden. He grew many kinds of lettuce, peas, beans and strawberries. He also planted sesame seeds, which he used to make his own salad dressing!
We toured the kitchen, stables and wine storeroom as well. While in France, Jefferson collected many kitchen utensils, which he brought back with him to Monticello. In 1809 and kitchen remodel was completed which included a bake oven, fireplace and stew stove. Jefferson is described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist.” He believed the United States could “make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” His wine cellar was built directly beneath the dining room with bottle-sized dumbwaiters that rose into the cellar’s ceiling and into both sides of the mantelpiece in the dining room.
My visit to Monticello taught me a lot about our 3rd President and founding father. As I walked around the grass, flowers and gardens, I could envision my main character, Buzzy, running around, chasing a stick, lounging under a cherry tree and playing in the snow.
I hope you’ll love my new book and share it with friends and family. And if you’re ever near Richmond, Virginia, stop and visit Buzzy and Thomas’ home, Monticello.Continue reading