Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pumpkin Squash is released

My new picture book, Pumpkin Squash is finally available! And just in time for Halloween, imagine that!

 
When an ugly stuffed witch tells Pumpkin that he could end up squashed on the side of the road like all other pumpkins, Pumpkin takes off. He is determined not to let that happen to him so he runs through trick-or-treaters, hides in bushes only to encounter a big hairy monster. Can he find safety or is he destined to end up squashed!
 
Pumpkin Squash is suitable for 4-8 yr. olds and can be found on amazon.com, guardian angel publishing, other online retailers or through me. 
 
Now for an update on our possible move to Granbury, TX. We are making our 2nd trip up there soon to see more houses for sale. We love the area so that is definitely where we plan to retire. I've already seen and imagined plenty of great opportunities for book signings in that area as well as Ft. Worth and Dallas. Even talked to a store owner on the town square of Granbury who told me she'd love to have me do a book signing there once we move.
 
 
Things are looking up for us! My sister and her husband just made an offer on a house so they'll most likely get there first. My dream of living close to family is beginning to look like a real reality and I couldn't be more excited. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we'll find our new retirement home soon!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Missing In Action

I know, I know, I haven't posted in quite awhile. Did you think I've given up writing on my blog? Did you think I'd been kidnapped because I'm such a beautiful, interesting person that of course someone would want me?




Did you wonder if I'd won the lottery and flew the coup with all my millions (I wish)? Did you think that from my last post my husband and I loved New York so much we just up and moved there?

Well all of those are wrong. The boring truth is, I just didn't do it! Remember when I posted that my husband and I were trying to decide about retirement. Whether we should move someplace beautiful or choose to live near family? Truth is, we still aren't sure. My husband did, however, officially retire the end of June. Woo hoo!

Anyway, my mind has swayed away from writing and is totally concentrating on retirement. In my small mind, I have already chosen to move to Texas near my sister and nieces. However, we haven't even seen the area yet. We have a trip up there scheduled in a week or so. But I am so excited at the thought of living near some of my family, that I can't seem to concentrate on writing. I have never taken such a long break from writing but I think I need it. Plus, us writer's need to learn to forgive ourselves if we just "aren't feeling it" all the time.

On top of it, things haven't gone well for me in almost a year now as far as my writing career. Yes, I've gotten three new books out but all the events I had scheduled last fall, failed because of weather. I had 6 or 7 big events and every single one got rained on and/or cancelled. Rain stops people from coming out. And those that do decide to brave it, quickly run for cover and end up leaving. So no people around, makes for poor book signings. I ended up losing money, which was very disappointing.

And now that I have our potential move coming up, it's been really hard to focus on anything else. You have to understand, I haven't lived near any family in over 35 yrs. (waa waa waa)



That means 35 yrs. of never celebrating a birthday, the superbowl, Halloweeen, Christimas only when we could go visit or they could come to us, and the same with every other holiday or major event in our lives. I couldn't even have a party to celebrate my husbands 60th or his retirement because we simply have no family close by. We've met a lot of great people and good friends along the way, but nothing beats family.



So you can imagine how excited I am at the prospect of living near some family again. Plus, it's my big sister, husband, their two daughters and grandson and I absolutely adore them all! We will have such fun. And to top it off, I'll get a new house in a new community and to me, that's exciting and fun. It's a new beginning for this third portion of our lives.

Some of you probably think it sounds horrible to just up and move to a new community, but my husband and I have been doing this for 35 yrs. because his job was always transferring him. So that's old news to us and we've learned to enjoy the new adventure.

To conclude, that's why I haven't been updating my blog and I will most likely be inconsistent until all of this comes to an end. I will try to update you every once in awhile on our new adventure so if you're interested, keep tuning in.

One bit of good news I have to share about my writing is my new picture book for Halloween, titled Pumpkin Squash is being finalized so look for it soon!




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our trip to New York City

My husband and I finally took a real vacation last week. We've been married 35 yrs. and only taken two real vacations. Once to Cancun, once to an Alaskan cruise and now to NY City. We aren't big travelers but never had the option to be when I was working. I wasn't able to stay on a job long enough to get more than two weeks vacation because my husbands job was always transferring us. So with only 10 days all year and both our families living in different places and far away, we've always had to use up my 10 days visiting family. Not that we didn't love doing that, but once in awhile a person just needs to get away from everything and go have some adventures and see new things!

Anyway, New York is a place I have always wanted to see so my husband decided we needed to go there to celebrate our anniversary. And I'm glad he did. We both really needed the break.

New York is a spectacular city and there is certainly a lot to see! We didn't get to see everything we'd planned because some of the lines to get in were just too long for two people who have zero to no patience!




We had quite the adventure on the ferry boat to see the Statue of Liberty. What we could see was quite magnificent but mostly what we saw were people crowding in front of the views taking selfies! What has become of us! People are obsessed with themselves these days. (Hmmm, do I see a "selfies" picture book in my future!)





We saw a few people who never sat down. Never once even took in the views. All they did was pose for selfies. It was insane! We just had to laugh because if we didn't do that, I would've lost my cool and started yelling at people. We couldn't even take a picture of ourselves because every photo we took had a stranger in it. So we both just decided to jump on board and include strangers. Here is one of a family taking a photo and I just decided I'd jump right in. Don't I look like them?


And here is one where my husband just held up his hands and said, "What the heck!" The lady behind him in red has no clue what anything looks like. She never stopped taking her selfie once during the entire cruise! Where is she going to put all those photos of herself!



One of the most beautiful, but chilling things we saw was the new Freedom Tower. It's magnificent but gave me goose bumps realizing that is where thousands of people lost their lives on 911. So sad. But New York really did a great job of memorializing this event.


The two waterfall holes where the actual towers stood, was magical. You may not be able to get the full affect from this photo but this is a waterfall with water running from all sides and down into the hole in the middle. Each person that lost their lives name is engraved on this memorial. You couldn't help but feel sorrowful but proud that we will never forget those people who died in that horrible tragedy.

This is a cool photo that is kind of "eerie." It's the reflection of the freedom tower from a building across the street. Neat. 













And as amazing as it was, here is a 200 yr. old church that sits right in front of the towers but was never damaged. Incredible!












A dream of my husbands was to step inside the Yankee Stadium and see a game. We did! And I even got to sit beside a very interesting couple who were from Australia. This was her first baseball game, ever!






Central Park was absolutely gorgeous. A lot of walking, but worth it.



This next photo, I don't remember exactly where it was but it's a tunnel waterfall. My husband is standing inside it. There is water on top and all sides flowing down. So cool!


The last place we went to was Grand Central Station. It was cool but I was a bit disappointed. I guess I've seen too many movies with it in there. I expected benches in the middle where people were waiting for their trains, there were none. I expected to hear the choo choo of trains, I heard nothing but the masses of people moving about. But it was still exciting to know I was there!

Lots and lots of fun stuff to see in New York. I especially enjoyed seeing the Lion King musical and a comedy play called Shear Madness. One of my most exciting moments was when I got to look through the window at the Good Morning America studio and saw Amy, Robin, George and Lara. I watch them every morning while I wake up and drink my coffee. So it was great to see them and the studio in the flesh. However, they sure make everything look bigger on TV!

The crowds of people in Times Square was unbelievable. I thought New Orleans and Chicago were nuts, but they are nothing compared to Times Square. I felt like I was in the center of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and that is a mess, let me tell ya! We did NOT enjoy the people everywhere part of Times Square at all or the traffic. But I was very surprised how nice all the people were who actually lived there like the restaurant people, hotel people, etc. etc.  And for a person who has lived in Louisiana and Texas where people hug you after meeting you once, that is saying something!

We loved our adventure but there's nothing like getting back to our "Home Sweet Home" and hug our doggies.



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

First off, I'd like to let everyone know that I am now offering critiquing services for picture book manuscripts. Picture books are my passion and I would love to help others polish up their stories and get them ready to send off to publishers. Click on my Critiquing and Design Services tab for more information.

But more importantly, Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, especially my own mother and mother-in-law. My mom had a rough week last week but came through it like a champ. It's great to hear her talk about plans for the future and all the things she has to look forward to. My mom is a strong woman who knows who she is and has always made her children feel loved. We've had our differences in life but have always overcome them and become closer. Now that we have our writing in common, we have tons to talk about and constantly give each other encouragement. My mother has always had faith in her kids and never failed at giving us the confidence we needed to conquer our fears. I love you mom!

I admire my mom and also my mother-in-law. Even though neither she nor my own mom were crazy about my husband and I getting married, she has always welcomed me into her home and made me feel like a part of her family. Her love and support have been very precious to me and I am one of the lucky people who wouldn't trade my mother-in-law for anyone! I love you too, Vi!

Mother's are a special breed. Not everyone is cracked up to be one and even those that are mother's, may not do it well. But if you have love in your heart for your child (or pets, in my case) and they feel that love, than in my opinion that's the most important part of mothering. Even when my own mother and I disagreed or got in an argument about something, there has never been a moment when I doubted her love for me or my siblings. And that love has carried us all through some difficult times.


To all of us who are fortunate enough to still have our mother's, let's give them an extra big hug this year. And to those that have lost their mother's, blow a kiss towards heaven, I'm sure they're waiting for it!



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Retirement: Beauty or Family?

I can't believe where the time has gone! I still feel like my husband and I are in our 30's but the truth is, we are way past that age. We are within 2-3 yrs of retirement.

Retirement is something we dream of all our lives! No more working. No one to boss us around except each other. Freedom to do exactly what we want! But the fact is, retirement is scary. Oh the no working part sounds wonderful but the fact that we won't have the same income we have coming in now, is frightening.  So is the fact that we are living the last quarter of our lives.

My husband and I have a big decision to make. Where to live? We are not from Louisiana, we just live here because of his job. I hate the summer weather down here so I'll be darned if I'm going to spend the last part of my life suffering in this heat!

We are both from the same town, Edgerton, Ohio. The winters are brutal up there, at least for my husband as he hates the snow and cold. But that's where most of his family still live.



My dream is to retire someplace beautiful. I've always wanted a home where I could look out my back window and see hills, water, or trees. The view from our last few houses have just been the tops of peoples roofs.

We've contemplated and made a few trips to Tennessee between Chattanooga and Knoxville areas to look for a place to retire and found a few areas we love. It's certainly beautiful there with all the scenery on my wish list. And it's at least 8 hrs. closer to his family and mine. However, for the umpteenth time in our lives, we'd have to start all over from scratch. With no family or friends around. We've been doing this for 35 yrs. now because of his job transfers. And it's gotten mighty old.

Our dilemma is, do we want to do it AGAIN!!?? Today, we are thinking not. It's on our minds that we should move closer to Edgerton. Maybe 1 hr. or so away. That way whenever there is a Stotz family event...we can actually attend. Plus we both have people in the area that we still consider good friends and would love getting together with them once in awhile.

But...you knew there would be a but didn't you? But, I would have to give up my dream of hills and probably water, plus the mild weather that Tennessee offers. Ohio and surrounding areas are as flat as Louisiana. Pretty farm country, but we aren't farm people. And my husband would have to deal with freezing to death.





So although we are excited for retirement, we are also soooooooooo confused!

I'm curious to see what some of you would do. Would you give up your dream of beautiful scenery and gorgeous mild weather or would you give that dream up to be nearer family and friends?


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Staying Uphill

I have to face facts. I've been in a downhill funk with my writing for over a year now. My dad passed away February 2015 and ever since then, I've been finding it extremely hard to write. My whole 2015 felt like I was walking around in a tear filled fog that went by so quickly, I barely remember it.

All in all, I didn't do much writing last year but have regained my momentum, somewhat. However, for 2016 I am trying to spend my main focus on promoting the books that I have published versus concentrating so much on getting another manuscript accepted. This year, I have two more picture books coming out so I need to find more productive ways of promoting myself.

But it's a constant struggle. I am not a sales or marketing person so selling myself is extremely hard. I've been trying all that I know, but that isn't much. And it's not paying off very well. I've spent some money this year on advertising, but so far, that isn't paying off either.

I'm almost convinced that you have to be someone to sell a book. It's very disheartening since I'm a complete unknown nobody! Most of the people I know, which isn't many, have been sweet enough to support me but it's the ones that I don't know that I can't seem to reach. Being a writer is a constant uphill, downhill battle and the saying that "you really have to love it to do it" is absolutely spot on! I do love most things about this business and I worked extremely hard to get to where I'm at today, so I don't intend on ever giving up. I just need to find a formula that will work for me so I can climb the hill back up!

One of the biggest rewards in this business of writing for children for me is when I see a child who loves my books. When I'm at a book signing and a child comes up and loves the way my books look and their little face lights up when I tell them what it's about, is all the clarity I need to convince myself  this is my calling. I'm doing this for a reason! No matter how frustrating it gets.

Last week was a bad one for me. I was feeling defeated and depressed after working on my taxes. Well who doesn't, right? Anyway, it didn't last long because I received two beautiful photo's that brightened my day. This first one is my great nephew, Lincoln. He just got a new baby sister so I sent her a "welcome to the world" gift but didn't want to leave little Lincoln out. So I sent him my newest picture book, Cookies for Punch, along with some pretend dog ears to play like he was turning into a dog like the character in my book. Poor little Lincoln was born almost 2 years ago very prematurely. He spent the first few months of his life in the hospital. But he's a strong boy and bounced back with the speed of lightening! He has quite the personality too, one in which picture books should model their character by (and yes, my little mind is brewing up ideas). Anyway, to see him doing so well and enjoying my book so much, makes everything I had to do to get that book published, more than worthwhile.

Isn't he the cutest!!

This second photo is the grandson of my friend, Deborah Lynne. I don't know him personally, but feel like I do from everything his grandma has told me about him. Thanks for letting her take your photo, Eli!!



I just wanted to share all of this with any of you writers out there that might be feeling frustrated. You aren't alone, Not one bit. I think even the most successful authors have these same uphill, downhill battles. So don't give up. Any reward you might receive, even a photo, will show you that it's all worth it.






Thursday, March 3, 2016

Spotlight on Children's Author, Maria Ashworth

I'm so pleased to be bringing to your attention a new children's picture book author, Maria Ashworth. I sat beside her at a recent book signing event and was so impressed with her work that I wanted to feature her on my blog.

Here is what she had to say about her new book Step One, Step Two, Step Three, and Four, her process, and what made her write this very entertaining story.



A young girl's world is turned upside-down when her mother tells her she's getting remarried. Along with the ring comes a few more, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four. The girl will do whatever it takes to keep the "steps" out of her life. She eventually realizes there are some benefits to her new blended family.

This picture book was nominated as a finalist in the picture book category for the 2012 National Association of Elementary School Principals contest.

I divorced after 18 years of marriage. It was devastating for the kids and me but we managed through it. My two kids didn’t mind me dating, and I didn’t think blending children would be an issue. I met a man who had five kids. When my daughter saw the seriousness of the relationship things changed. She didn’t want step-siblings touching her things, sharing her bathroom much less her mom.  We married despite her reservations.

I viewed libraries and bookstores looking for books on blending families. They had books on having a new mommy or daddy, or living in two houses. But none touched the subject of blending children. I didn’t plan on writing a book but tried my hand at making her a little story about her transition. I showed it to my husband and he thought I had something. 



My daughter beamed because now there was a story about her transition. We blended our children before the story got put into a book.


She adjusted early on and learned there were some good things about having these step kids. She realized she could boss them around, dress them up and when in a bind, blame stuff on them.








I wrote it lyrically to make it more appealing. I tried it in prose and it didn’t feel right to me. The book emphasizes sharing, caring and acceptance. I wrote the book to make children understand that it’s not all bad. That there will be an adjustment period but your parent will always be your parent. And they will always love you. No one will take that away from them. I wanted them to see that things can change for the better. That some good can come from it. The unknown can be pretty scary especially in children. The book can help with the transition. I believe Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four has a place on a shelf in every household whether blended or not.

I had always had a love for writing since I was young. I didn’t take it seriously until I journaled my divorce. I thought that women would really benefit from my story. There is an empowerment to my journey. Right after, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four was born. I told myself then that I was going to get serious about my writing career. And my husband was behind it. I became a member of SCBWI in 2009. My first conference was in Houston/Katy, Texas. It put the fire in my belly. A week later I formed a weekly critique group with other writers. We’re 7 years strong with a lot of success stories under our belt. I acquired an agent two years ago. She worked on getting TOMMY JAMES and MY BIG TREE into a house. TOMMY JAMES went to the editor’s round table. So close but no contract. I know one day TJ and the rest of my manuscripts WILL be in picture books soon. I’m agent free now and independently published.


All my stories come from experience. I have forty-eight manuscripts waiting to get in the hands for children and adults to read. I love to tell stories and can’t see myself doing anything else.  

Purchase on: www.mariaashworth.com
Book trailer: https://youtu.be/eVdHfhrLmvg


Allyn's Review

I’m so impressed with this first time author, Maria Ashworth’s debut picture book, Step One, Step Two, Step Three, and Four. I would give this a huge 5 star rating.

Not only is this an important story for any blended family, but it’s also just fun. Written in rhyme, the author gets a strong message across that things aren’t as bad as they might first seem. In fact, life can be even better than it was before!

At first, the little girl is terribly worried that her mom is going to get married and she’s just not sure she likes this new man named, Larry. “What’ll happen to our family of two?” She likes the attention centered on her. What if this new man has boys to bring in to the family? “There’d be frogs and worms, smelly socks and disgusting germs!”

With colorful and detailed illustrations, this charming story made me laugh. It also had a very satisfying and fun ending.

I not only highly recommend this adorable picture book to anyone who might be introducing their children into a blended family, but to anyone who enjoys a well written and funny read.