Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Almost Christmas!

I don't know why, but this year I've really been into all things Christmas, and early on to bat. I started getting excited for the decorating in September! What's up with that? I'm not even having company or going anywhere. The only people to see my hard work are myself, my hubby who could care less, and my dogs and cat who just love it. How do I know this? Because I tell them they do, of course!

So needless to say, I started my decorating earlier than normal and had all of that done, all my shopping, wrapping, and shipping done last week! And am so glad I did. I left one package to mail this week and the lines were doubled at the post office from last week. Good thinking, Allyn! I'm patting myself on the back right now.

I have always been an early "get the shopping done and out the door" kinda gal though. I just can't stand all the crowds of people pushing, shoving, and cutting in line at the stores. I'll never understand how others have the patience for that!

But with all my excitement and hussle and bussle of getting everything done, my writing is suffering. I haven't written a thing all month. I've edited, and done some other writing things but not really worked on a particular story. So in a way, I can't wait for the holidays to be over because my new years resolution for 2014 is to concentrate more on my writing. I haven't been a very disciplined writer since I was laid off from my job in 2012 but next year I plan to change that. Pray for me!

However, I have some good news. I got another acceptance for a picture book story I've been working on for quite a while now. This publisher has been holding on to it for awhile but finally gave me the Christmas present I most wanted! Another book!

Since no one but maybe a friend or two will see my Christmas hard work, I'll show you!




 
Squeeeee! These are all for me!


Funny how trees never take good photo's. My tree looks small and lonely
here, but it's really not. It's big and gorgeous! Poor thing.



 







If anyone is in the area this weekend, stop on by the Imagine Christmas Bazaar & Craft Show, Hosanna Church, in Marrero, LA this Friday, Dec. 13 from 5:00 - 10:00 pm and Saturday, Dec. 14 from 4:00 - 10:00pm. I'll be there signing my book. Should be lots of fun for the whole family! Hope to see some of you there.






Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Six W's

I hope all of you have recovered from your holiday and had a great one at that. Myself, I've recovered from a "let down" of a turkey day. My husband wanted a fried turkey this year so since I was ordering that, I also ordered the fixin's to go along with it. Never again! It was nice not having to cook much, but the food was a total let down. So next year, I'll be sweating in the kitchen again!

I came across a great article the other day and wondered how many of you children's picture book authors use or know about the rule of a strong opening in your story by applying the six W's.

What are the six W's to a strong opening?

1. Who is your main character? In picture books, introducing your main character first is vital. If you introduce a secondary character first, you'll confuse the reader. They won't know with whom to identify. We must start out with a scene that introduces the main character through dialogue, action, or another's reaction to him.

2. What does your character want? In order to grab a young person's attention right away, it's important to lay down the main characters problem, goal, or conflict within the first few sentences.  Young children need to know what the story is going to be about right away or they'll lose focus. That stuffed animal in the corner is going to take over their interest before you turn the first page if they become bored right away.

3. When is your story taking place? If you're writing a contemporary story, this isn't always necessary. But if your writing a story that takes place in another era, it's important to introduce that early on. For instance if your story is about something that took place back in George Washington's day it's important to give hints early on. An example would be something like this:
"Mama, how was the fair today?" Ann asked. "Did you get to meet President George Washington?"

That one sentence would give the first clue that your story is taking place a long time ago.

4. Where is your story taking place? Just like the reader needs to know when the story is taking place, they also need to know where. In picture books, you don't need to tell an elaborate scene description but they should know where it's taking place.

5. What is the tone of your story? Is your story going to be serious? Sad? Funny? Your careful selection of words and rhythms lets the reader know. Give clues early on for a funny story by using playful, humorous, upbeat, or even made-up words.

6. Wow! This is where you hook the reader. And it should happen early on, preferably the first paragraph. The Wow factor is probably one of the most important parts of the 6 W's. If you can't get the reader's interest snatched early on, then they may not even be interested in the rest of the story.

How many of you make sure to include the 6 W's in your story?





Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Interview With Author, Mikki Sadil

Today it's my pleasure to interview the talented author, Mikki Sadil about her debut novel titled The Freedom Thief. This book sounds so interesting and I for one can't wait to read it!

So here is a little teaser about the book and how she came up with the idea:

The story is about a 13 year old boy who lives on his grandmother's plantation in Kentucky with his parents and two older brothers. His best friend is a 10 year old crippled slave boy, Josiah,whose mother works in the house and father works in the fields. Ben (MC) learns his father is going to sell Josiah because he is crippled and can't work to earn his keep. Ben knows the only way to keep that from happening is to lead Josiah and his
parents, Bess and Jesse, to freedom. With a little subtle help from his beloved grandmother, a secret Abolitionist, Ben learns of an old barn in the forest, a secret tunnel under the barn, and decides that is where the journey will start. When the buyer arrives at the plantation a week earlier than expected, Ben must get the slaves to leave immediately, without any plan of escape or even a map of the Kentucky terrain. All Ben knows is that he must get them to the Ohio River and safety on the far side. The rest of the story concerns their escape and all
the dangers and intrigues they must endure during their journey to find freedom.

The story came about when Richard and I took a barge trip in 1999 down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. We visited a lot of Civil War sites: a fort;  a
beautiful mansion on a cliff high above the Ohio which had been a Union Army
headquarters; the remains of some slave houses on a couple of plantations; the many ways in which slaves were aided in their escaping, such as the methods of transport, the codes used to "talk" between the rescuers, and even the quilts that were sewn by the Quakers, whose patterns were nothing but another kind of code to tell the slaves where and how they could get away. Fascinating!


Mikki, why are you a writer?

 
I know that a lot of writers say things like “I live to write” or “I write because I have to”, or something similar, indicating that they couldn’t live without writing. I write because I love to tell stories, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of my life. I hope that doesn’t shock anyone!

What was your very favorite story to write and why?

To be honest, my most favorite story is one that is not finished yet. It is a paranormal/historical/mystery, set in the early 1930s in a traveling carnival. The paranormal bit is about psychic abilities, not about vampires and werewolves who have waaaay outlived their time! It has witches, gargoyles, and a stray monster or two, a 16 year old main character who is French, and it has many twists and turns. I’m very anxious to get back to it, get it finished and polished, and send it off to publication.


When you saw your book for the very first time, how did it make you feel?
I think, more astonished than anything. Wow, I did it…I really did it! Publication is a major achievement for anyone, and for a grandmother who has gone through all the trauma and tragedy that this past year and a half have brought to our family, it still amazes me that I could actually get this done. But I am pleased, happy, and maybe just a little bit proud!
How much research did you have to do to write a book about slavery, even though it’s fiction?
This took two years to do properly, and it included the barge trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, visiting Civil War sites, forts, ramshackle barns and old farm wagons that once held escaping slaves, going through former “safe” houses through the Underground Railroad, and visiting many museums that held so many items from that era. The research was painstaking and fascinating. I learned much more than what this story holds, but everything in the story is factual, except for the storyline. That includes the way people dressed, the food they ate, their modes of transportation, everything about home life on a plantation. For slavery, I researched the way they lived, the kinds of punishment they endured, their ways of escape…this included a lot of research about the Underground Railroad, which was the system Quakers and Abolitionists used to help escaping slaves. They used lights in windows of their homes, quilts with woven symbols only the slaves could decipher were hung over wooden fences, and certain songs and words that spoke only to the slaves. I studied the ways of hiding slaves in their homes and barns, and the methods of transporting them from one safe place to another. As I said, it was a fascinating and, at the same time, a very moving experience to realize what we white people put African Americans through in those days.
If you hadn’t pursued your dream to become an author, what do you think your 2nd dream would have been?
Allyn, I’ve been very fortunate in my life to realize ALL of my dreams, as strange as that may seem. I grew up wanting to sing, and began singing professionally in Musical Theatre when I was 13 years old. I did this until I was 19, when a throat operation ended that career. When I remarried, my husband and I built a ranch and began breeding, raising, and training Appaloosa horses for the show ring. As a horsewoman all my life, I had always dreamed that some day I would have my own ranch, ( I was born on a ranch in Texas) and would train horses. So that dream also came true. When we retired after 23 years and moved to this small Victorian town on the Central Coast of California, I began writing in earnest.
What is the one thing that helps you the most that you couldn’t live without in regards to your writing?
The support of my husband and my family. As you know, writing can be, and usually is, a very lonely profession, and without the kind of loving support I’ve always gotten from them, I doubt seriously if I would write.
You say you started writing this book in 2006, why do you think it took so long to get it published?
LOL! Sorry, not laughing at the question, just at the answer! Well, life got in the way, for one thing. I started this book as the last assignment of my first course at ICL (Institute of Children’s Literature), and with so much encouragement from my instructor, I went immediately into the Advanced Novel course. BUT! That instructor didn’t want to see any more books about the Underground Railroad ( which is what the first rendition of the novel was about), so he asked me to write something more contemporary. I did, and that is the second book that will be out in the spring of 2014. However, I was determined to get back to my Civil War story, so I took a second Advanced Novel course, and this time the instructor was good to go with it. But again, she and I disagreed on some very main issues with the book, and even though I finished “a novel” with her, it was not this one. The Freedom Thief took some major revisions and more research before I was willing to submit it. Another year and more went by, then I submitted it, it was rejected but with a lot of helpful comments, I revised it some more, re-submitted it in March of this year and received my contract in April.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking or trying to become an author?
First of all, don’t give up. If you really and truly want to write, then don’t give up. But DO take classes, read all you can, perfect your craft as much as you can, and then pursue it. The second thing I would say is what my first ICL instructor told me: Write what you want to write, what you feel in your heart, and not what others tell you to write. Don’t write to ‘fads’ or trends because they will be gone before you ever get published. Don’t listen to that old adage ,”write what you know,” because that can get to be boring. Listen and learn what you DON’T know but want to, and then write about it. The third thing would be, Don’t forget to do your research. Writers seem to think the only story that needs research is an historical one, but that’s not true. MOST stories need some kind of research, so just understand that you can’t know everything about everything, and do the research you should do.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I want to get back to Beneath the Possum Belly. That’s my paranormal novel, which has also taken…so far…more than a year of research. I’ve had to research psychic abilities, traveling carnivals in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when they were just about all the entertainment most people could afford, especially after the Great Depression. I researched that era, also, and in doing so, found the most interesting place to set my novel in! It was once a squatters’ camp, near the shores of the Mississippi River in Ohio, but a mass murder turned it into a ghost town. It’s now being revived in my novel. So I’m excited to get started again on it, get it finished, edited, revised, polished, and submitted by summer of next year. And I am going to do just that, no matter what!
Allyn, thanks so much for doing this interview. It’s been fun!

                                                                                     Mikki’s Bio

In a past life, Mikki sang professionally in Musical Theatre from the age of 13 until 19. When she finished more years of college than she cares to remember, she taught Sociology, Statistics and Research Methodology, and the Sociology of Criminal Behavior to junior and senior University students. But she has had a passion for writing since she published her first poem at age ten, and first short story at age twelve. During her college years, she published several short stories as well as a book of Haiku poetry, but serious writing was postponed for marriage and a family. After her husband and Mikki retired from raising and training Appaloosa horses, she returned to writing and publishing. Her short stories and articles have been published in national children’s magazines, online, and in an anthology of horror stories for teens. The Freedom Thief is Mikki's debut novel.
 
My husband and I share our home on the Central Coast of California with our beloved Corgi, lazy Siamese cat, and a bossy African Grey parrot.
 
You can purchase Mikki’s book at https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/our-authors/69-our-authors/authors-s/379-mikki-sadil

Thanks to Mikki for sharing her story with all of us. Best of luck and I hope you sell tons of books!




 
 

 

 

 
 
 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy spooks and goblins day! I'm sure all you writer's out there that write paranormal, horror, and anything mysterious just love this day!


 
 In honor of this day, here are a few things that have spooked me to death in my lifetime:
 
One day a longggggg time ago, while working in a factory on a machine I worked on everyday for 8 hours straight, I was daydreaming. Go figure, huh. Anyway, I had a special male friend that was moving out of town soon. This friend had just lost his brother so as I was daydreaming, I prayed to that deceased brother to please let me see my friend one more time before he moved. I day dreamed that as I got off work for the evening (I worked 2nd shift) that as I approached the parking lot to my car I heard my name whispered, "Allyn." It was dark out so I looked around but saw no one. I continued on to my car. I heard it again, "Allyn." And a third time, "Allyn over here." That's when I saw my friends car and his head sticking out the window. I got in the car and got to spend some "goodbye" time with him. But what's so freaky about that you ask? Well remember that was all a total daydream, except the praying to his brother part. The freaky part is that when I actually got off work that night...... that EXACT thing happened. And I am not kidding or exaggerating. I'll never forget that! It still sends shivers down my spine everytime I think of it.
 


 A couple of years after that, it happened again. I was sitting in the parking lot of KMart, missing my friend again. He now lived 4 hours away and I hadn't seen him in a long time. As I was leaving the store to my car, I prayed again to his deceased brother, "Please let me run into my friend today!" When I got in my car, another car sped right up to me. Yep, you guessed it, it was my friend!! And there is no reason in the world for him to have been in the town I lived at at the time. Freaky!
 
Another freaky thing that left me thinking I'd gone insane was one day I went into my closet to get some shoes. Suddenly I spotted a pair of black shoes I had never seen before! I thought maybe one of my sisters had left them at my house or something because they certainly weren't mine. I picked them up but they were my size NOT my sisters and it was obvious they had been worn many times! To this day, I have no clue where those shoes came from. That is creepy!
 
My final creepy thing I remember is really creepy and sad. I was driving around my small town, back and forth, around and about (this was about all there was to do in this town, we did it for hours!). We had recently lost our first classmate in an auto accident and it was still fresh on my mind. I remember driving around town wondering who would be next to die. I drove by a house that a couple of male friends lived in. I said outloud to myself, Jeff is going to be next! Then I forgot about it and went home. One month later, Jeff died in a car accident! I'm still freaked out about that!!
 
 Now for a few interesting facts about Halloween that you might not know:
 
When trick-or-treating first became popular in the United States in the 1800s, more children played mischievous pranks than asked for candy. By the 1950s, though, the focus had switched to good old family fun, with sugar-hyped children dressed in costumes.
According to Zillow.com, Seattle, Washington, is the best city for trick-or-treating.

For some towns in the U.S., the Halloween theme lasts all year long, thanks to their names. A few that would be especially fun to visit for the holiday: Frankenstein, Mo.; Scary, W.Va.; Spook City, Colo.; and Candy Town, Ohio.
 
A working magician from the age of 17, Harry Houdini (née Ehrich Weisz) became America’s favorite magician and a world-renown legend for his daring escapes. It was only fitting, then, for this master trickster to die on October 31, 1926—from a ruptured appendix
Due to safety concerns, trunk-or-treating was introduced in 2000 as an alternative to hitting the pavement for candy on Halloween night. Cars are parked in a circle at a school or church parking lot, with event-goers decorating their open trunks and dressing in costume in order to hand out treats.
 
In 2010, Belleville, Illinois, became the latest city to ban trick-or-treating for kids over 12. Teens can face fines from $100 to $1,000 for going door-to-door (although according to officials, more often than not, over-age Halloween-goers are just given a warning).

Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.

 
According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and then walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.g
 
There's a $1,000 fine for using or selling Silly String in Hollywood on Halloween.
 
 
Here a few silly jokes I thought you might get a giggle from (remember I write children's books so yes, these are goofy!)

Question: Why don’t ghosts like rain?
Answer: It dampens their spirits!
Question:  What’s a ghost’s favorite room?
Answer:  The living room!
Question: What do you get if you cross Bambi with a ghost?
Answer: Bamboo.
Question:  Whom do monsters buy their cookies from?
Answer: The Ghoul Scouts.
Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!
 
 

 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

TV Addiction. I don't have it!

I am not a TV fanatic, I'm not!! However, I am really happy to see the new fall season in full swing. I'm sick of reruns.

It's interesting to talk to different people about what shows they enjoy. I'm finding that my favorite shows are drama's. Ones where the show continues from week to week sort of like a soap opera. For instance, I love the show "Revenge". Anyone else watching that? I'm also really getting into "Scandal" and of course I love "Grey's Anatomy."

But what's really upsetting me and I find myself almost swearing off the shows is that you see one episode one week and the next week, they are already
showing a repeat! I anxiously turned my channel to Scandal the other night and it was a rerun of the week before. WTH!! And Grey's Anatomy is always doing that. I don't get it. Can't they wait to run the reruns until it's rerun season!

I really love all the singing shows. Especially "Nashville" and used to love "Smash." What happened to that show, it was wonderful but only lasted 2 seasons (wiping a small tear from my eye). But I'm totally addicted to the reality singing shows. American Idol used to be my favorite and one that I counted the days until it came on again but after last seasons judges... I have to say I'm not as enthusiastic anymore. However, with JLo coming back, I'm sure I'll tune in again this year. XFactor is also a favorite of mine. I hate to admit it but I like Simon Cowell as a judge. He has mellowed since his days on American Idol but I find he's really the only truly honest judge out there and I admire his honesty as long as he does it with tact and doesn't completely insult the poor singer! I've watched "The Voice" since it's first show and am liking it more and more each season. I enjoyed the new judges last year but I also like Christina and CeLo. The talent this year is pretty amazing!

It looks like there may be a few new good 30 minute comedies on this season. The show "Dads" looks pretty funny. I haven't made up my mind about Michael J. Fox's new show yet but will watch it a few more times before I either write it off or become a fan. I do want him to succeed again. He was so good in "Family Ties" way back when.

I like some of the crime shows too but some have become too upsetting for me. I used to love "Criminal Minds" but found I couldn't get to sleep sometimes after watching it. Sometimes it's just too disturbing realizing there are such sick people in the world. There are a few others that are just too creepy and frightening for me. I do like the CSI shows though but have to cover my eyes when they are cutting into bodies!

Okay, okay just because I've devoted my entire blog posting on TV shows still doesn't mean I have a TV problem. I CAN turn it off once in awhile ya  know! Unlike my hubby. He walks in the house and turns it on immediately and sleeps with it on. I don't go into convulsions if I miss a show (I only shake a little bit but I do not foam at the mouth!). I don't even DVR anything (however that's because I can't convince my husband to let me get it). And just because my dog is addicted to his show "Too Cute" doesn't mean I'm a bad mother!

So you see, I don't need to go into TV Rehab. I can stop whenever I want to! But let's make it tomorrow, Grey's Anatomy is on tonight!

What about you? Have you seen any good new shows this season that I can fit into my schedule? Not that I'm addicted or anything!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Feeling Blessed


Today as I contemplated what to write about, I wondered if I should write about fall, which is one of my favorite seasons. Or maybe I should write about my recent trip to Virginia and the "traumatic" experience my family and I experienced during that visit. But I decided to save that for a book idea instead! Then I thought maybe I should just stick to a writing subject.

But I decided against all that and instead I felt the need to express how "giddy" and "blessed" I feel today! So what better place than here to "hop up and dance with joy!"

I'm not a very religious person but am smart enough to know when God has blessed me with wonderful things. First off, it is fall after all so I'm happy as a I can be about that. Finally us Louisianians have some relief from the heat! My dogs and I can now begin our habit of walking everyday again.

My stomach is full of butterflies right now because I think we've found a publisher for my mom/sis's book of holiday stories! This has been my mom's favorite book to write so far and means a lot to her so keep your fingers crossed that it all turns out. I have a lot of faith in this publisher though but that's all I can say about it for now.

I'm also jumping for joy because I was able to work with my Futureword Publisher and get a firm title decided for the sequel to my picture book The Pea in Peanut Butter. The title will be Kailee Finds Magic IN Words. The estimated time for publishing is April, 2014 but all of you writer's know that could change. But I'm excited!

The big Louisiana Book Festival is coming up in a few weeks so I'm gearing up for that. It's always so much fun to see how many thousands of people love to read! And there is nothing more fun than a book signing, especially of this magnitude, so my butterflies are flying around in my stomach thinking of that as well.

Even more important than all of that, I'm feeling blessed because God was able to give me a chance to get together with my family not once this year but 3 times! And that truly is amazing since we all live so far away from each other. Wish we could make that happen every year!

One of the biggest miracles of this year was that God allowed my mother-in-law to recover from her grave illness that we thought was almost hopeless. She still has some problems but she's still with us and doing so much better.

So those are just a few of the things that are making me so happy today. How about you? Do you have any "giddy" news you'd like to share? If not, have faith, patience, and determination and good things will come to you too!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Is A Positive Attitude Really Enough?

Having a positive attitude in the writing industry is something we all need to strive for. But it isn't everything. I believe in a positive attitude and try very hard to keep one going at all times. But sometimes, it's just... well... extremely hard. It seems everyday we come across a barrior that tests us.

I have no doubt that a positive outlook helps but is it enough? It certainly makes us more pleasant people to be around and gives us strength to get up every morning. However, it can't substitute for other critically important things we need in order to be successful writers.
We still need to study our craft. A positive attitude can't tell us if we've not given enough description in our stories or if we've used proper grammar.

A positive attitude alone doesn't write our stories or sell our books. We still need to become "tech" savvy and learn how to use social media. I have come across quite a few writers who have wonderfully positive attitudes, but they don't do the other things that will get them published or sell their books.

A positive attitude doesn't change the real facts of our life or our dreams. Those 5 kids we have to feed, clothe, and bathe are there to stay. So on top of staying positive, we still have to work towards making our other dreams come true. A positive attitude won't do the research needed if we're writing non-fiction or come up with perfect characters for our fiction novel.

We have to actually do the work that it takes to make our writing life a success. Positivity alone can't do that for us. Sitting around all day thinking positive doesn't produce a good story and a publisher!

Below are a couple of quotes that I love about this subject:

"Get going. Move forward. Aim High. Plan a takeoff. Don't just sit on the runway and hope someone will come along and push the airplane. It simply won't happen. Change your attitude and gain some altitude. Believe me, you'll love it up here.”  
Donald Trump

You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.”
Stephen Richards, Think Your way to Success: Let Your Dreams Run Free

Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” ~ Vaclav Havel

Don't get me wrong, we should all stay positive, it's critical to our character as well as our success. But let's not forget that we also have to take the other necessary steps to help build our lives as writer's!

I'm no expert on this subject but decided to write about it because I also needed that reminder!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Doggone Cute!

I am such a happy doggy mommy! I couldn't resist sharing this picture with all of you.


Beemer, the tan and silver yorky came to us first. We had just lost our very precious and what I thought was my favorite dog, Buckeye. We were left with just two cats and couldn't take the quiet in the house so we raced off to find a new puppy. Buckeye picked out the perfect puppy for us! Beemer even looks almost identical to Buckeye. Beemer has a few "potty" issues and hates being outside but other than that, she is the sweetest dog in the world... to people. Not so much other animals.

So when we brought Punch (the black dog) home, I really worried that Beemer would be horrible to the new puppy. It's so funny because Punch has just idolized Beemer from the day he set eyes on his new older sister. Beemer thought of Punch as just a big nuisance and still to this day doesn't appreciate sharing her toys with Punch. In fact they've gotten into many "teeth" showing fights over toys and treats. Beemer is such a greedy baby! However, although they yell at each other in these fights and toss their vicious teeth around, it's all for show. They have NEVER even come close to actually hurting each other. It's pretty hilarious!

Now that they have lived almost 3 years together, Beemer has finally realized "Punch is here to stay!" Beemer even rings the bell to go outside sometimes for Punch's sake. Punch is a bit slow and just can't catch on to the ringing the bell thing. But now, look at them! You'd think they were best buddies. (please pretend you don't see their ugly mother with no makeup and barely awake)


These dogs just mean the world to me and give me tons of story ideas! What a couple of cutie pies!

Last week I shared a great list of steps to follow when writing your picture book and I hope some of you got something out of it. This week I want to share a book I recently purchased that is "rocking my world!" It's called The Emotion Thesaurus A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. They also have a website http://www.thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/ that I've used for years. But there's something about having the book in hand that seems even more useful.

This book is excellent when you're having trouble describing character's emotions. Sometimes I get carried away with dialogue and just end it by saying "she said." But this book is helping me add visualization to my characters expressions, body language, and thoughts.

I know that having this book in hand is helping my stories come more alive! Maybe it can help your writing too.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Picture Book Checklist

First of all, I need to announce the winner of last weeks giveaway! Congratulations to Ruth Shiffmann! I'll be contacting you Ruth for your address information. I hope you enjoy the book!

Something happened to me the other day that has happened one too many times over the last few years… I got ANOTHER rejection for one of my manuscripts. I try not to get upset but it really never gets any easier. About all you can do is move on, send to another publisher, or investigate your manuscript to see if you can figure out what you may have done wrong.


And I must admit, I saw problems with it in the very first paragraph! But what gets me is I had revised, revised, revised and thought I’d sent this story off completely perfect. However, I do remember having a feeling in the pit of my stomach that maybe I should have changed a certain something. One day, I need to remember to go with my first gut instinct! If I think there may be a problem, I need to listen to my doubt and change before sending to a publisher.
The other day, I ran across a check list article by Dianne Ochiltree that really is perfect and contains all the steps necessary for anyone who is writing a children’s picture book. It's a pretty long list, however very accurate. I intend on keeping it close to me at all times because let's face it, if we want to be a successful picture book writer, we have to follow the rules!
Below is a copy of that list for your reference.
PRE-SUBMISSION MANUSCRIPT CHECKLIST: PICTURE BOOKS
By Dianne Ochiltree, children's author, www.ochiltreebooks.com

If you can check off the following, you've got a winner that is ready for submission:

The title is catchy. It tells just enough about the story between the book covers without 'tipping your hand' by revealing any surprise plot twists or the ending itself.

The story 'hits the ground running'. It has a beginning that makes the reader care about the characters and want to read on. It sets up the story's central premise so the plot can flow naturally from it.


The plot makes sense. There are no character inconsistencies or internal logic lapses.
 

There are no mistakes in the punctuation, grammar, or spelling. When a new person talks, it starts on a new line.

The five senses are somewhere in the manuscript at least once: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell.

The basic who, when, what, how, where, and why of the story is answered in the manuscript, either in text or illustration notes.

The story is the correct word/page length for its intended age level. The word count is on the first page of the manuscript, along with my complete contact information, and there are identifying page numbers/author name/story title on all subsequent pages.

I've read this aloud numerous times to be certain that the sentences read smoothly.

I've removed all 'flabby' verbs, ambiguous nouns, and unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. All I see on the pages now are active, precise, and fun words!

My characters are the types that my target audience can identify with, and are basically likeable. My main character is not perfect. My villain is not all bad. Even if my characters are talking animals, they are REALLY just kids in fur!

There's a good balance of dialogue, action, and narration in my text.

My story has a beginning, middle and end.

There's a little humor at appropriate moments in my manuscript. If my story is a funny one, there's a lot of humor! Whatever the amount used, it's humor appropriate to the age of the targeted reader.

I've put a personal imprint on the manuscript either in my approach to the subject, or with my writing style. I've written a story that only I could tell. My passion for the subject and my characters shine through.

My story doesn't preach or teach a lesson. The message is waiting in the story for the reader to discover.

My main character solves his/her problem on his/her own. My character grows in some way as a result of meeting this central challenge.

My book has focus. I can reduce my story to a one-sentence explanation.

My manuscript has built-in 'page turns'. Each single page or double page spread is like a mini-chapter with a cliffhanger or other compelling reason for the reader to turn the page.

I've used the best words in the best order. I've organized each sentence for clarity and 'read-aloud' ability.

My story ending is emotionally satisfying. It's a surprise in some manner.

I've used repetition or refrain or chanting rhythmic lines to encourage listener participation when the book is read aloud.

My words can provide the illustrator with plenty of picture potential.

The story takes place in at least a dozen different scenes.

The pacing of my story is lively. Each scene moves into the next in logical order.

The story is told from a child's point of view.

Each character has his/her own distinctive voice and personality.

My manuscript adheres to the 'show, don't tell' principle.

The story will be one that children, and adults, will want to read again and again.

If you can say yes to all of these... you're good to go. If not, you may need to revise again.

So, after reading this extensive and detailed list, is your manuscript ready to go?
 
 
 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm Back!

Welcome back, me! And I have a giveaway to offer at the end of this post!!



As you all know, I took the month of August off from blogging because I had a couple of weeks there that I knew was going to be impossible for me to post. So I decided I deserved a summer break just like the school kids!  And, I can promise ya'all... I enjoyed it immensely. It's been a long time (I won't mention how many years because I don't want to give away how very old I really am!) since I had any kind of summer break. I may just need to do this every year!

Unfortunately, it's over now, boo hoo! But it feels good to be back in the swing of things. Although I took a month off from blogging, I still got quite a bit of writing done. Started several new stories and got some submissions out. Yay!

During my summer break I made an emergency trip home to Ohio, went on a true vacation to my sisters in Wisconsin, had a book reading and signing at Barnes and Noble,  started the long process of getting stuff around for a garage sale, and got a nasty infection that had me down for about a week.


My emergency trip back home turned out better than expected and my mother-in-law is doing much better. What a relief that was as we didn't expect her to pull through. God answered our prayers on that one, thank you god!

Had a wonderful vacation to Wisconsin. My oldest sister and her hubby live there and my other sister and her hubby from Virginia also made the trip (even though  my sis was on crutches and it took them an extra day of travel because their GPS screwed up and they got caught right in the midst of Chicago traffic). But they finally made it and we were all together. It was fabulous! My oldest sister/hubby are  wonderful hosts who treated us to many delicious meals, a fantastic day on the water, a trip to one of the best flea markets I've ever been to, some great golf outings for my hubby and plenty of fishing for my brother-in-law. We always have such fun together and always makes us wonder why we don't get together more often!

The only thing bad about getting back home and into my regular routine is... the dirt in my house did NOT take a summer break. Darn dirt, can't you ever take a day off!! I need to WRITE not CLEAN!! But I'm one of those silly people who can not start writing until my house is cleaned. Same thing with cooking. I can't begin cooking until my kitchen is cleaned. Makes no sense! I guess I want it clean so I can mess it up and clean all over again! It's a losing battle.

Kind of like writing is. I write and write and write but it's never enough for me. I have a ton of stories started in my inventory but it's never enough. I'm constantly starting something new. It's the same feeling with having a book published. It's not enough that I have contracts on 4 more books, I want more and more and more! However, it's a good thing to want, right? Hopefully the feeling will continue and after my 50th book, I'll still be wanting more!

Okay, now it's time to have some fun. In honor of my return to blogging and the end of my summer break, I'd like to give a way a signed copy of a book that I have a story in. It's Knowonder's 4th edition of their book of 31 children's stories. My story is called Hippytoe Gets A Frog In Her Throat, page 68. Here's a link to that book in case you want to take a peak. http://www.amazon.com/Hermans-Horrible-Day-collection-read-aloud/dp/1482662485/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378304438&sr=1-1&keywords=hermans+horrible

Our friend, Anne Johnson also has a story in this edition. Anyway, all you need to do is leave a comment telling me a little bit about what you did over the summer! I'll announce the winner in next weeks blog, next Thursday. Thanks for playing along!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Break

Wow, I'm so glad the last week is over! Unfortunately, we had to make an emergency trip home to Ohio and spent almost every waking second in the hospital. My mother-in-law was admitted and the Dr. called the family home. And we all know what that usually means.

Well lucky for us, she fought hard and was released. The doctor did not expect her progress. But she is now fighting her way back at a rehab. I won't go into the details of what was wrong with her because my husbands family is a very private one so I need to honor that. We are just so glad that she seems to be getting better and hopefully will go home in a few weeks. I need to thank God that he is allowing her to be with us a little while longer! My mother-in-law is a special lady who has from the get-go made me feel a part of the family. I couldn't ask for a better mother-in-law. Our family needs her to continue fighting and following the doctors orders!



Next week my husband and I are actually going on a much needed vacation to Wisconsin to visit my oldest sister and her husband. My other sister and her husband are also making the trip up. It seems all our trips are always to visit family since both sides all live far away from us. But this one should be very relaxing and loads of fun. I'm really looking forward to it!

Since I was unable to blog last week because of our emergency situation and I will be on vacation next week, I've made the tough (NOT!!) decision to take the entire month of August off from blogging. If the kids can take summer breaks than so can I!! So this will be my last post until the first Thursday in September.

Thanks to everyone who tunes into my blog each week and comments and I'll see ya in September! (hopefully it will be a little cooler by then!)


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is Success About Hard Work or Luck?

I've been reading a lot about whether or not being a successful writer is has more to do with luck or working hard. I believe it takes both. While reading Kristen Lamb's fantastic blog, she covered this subject beautifully so some of what I say about this is coming straight from her words. I thought it was an interesting subject and something that really made me THINK so I wanted to talk about it today.

Unfortunately, we can work ourselves to the bones writing everyday, sharpening up our writing skills, reading everything we can get our hands on about our craft and yet... if we don't have a little luck it could all be for nothing.


Before I began writing, I thought my calling in life was to be an interior decorator. I took classes and did everything I could do to perfect my skills. Then when I felt confident, I began getting the word out to friends, family, and co-workers that I was a decorator. I got a few clients and felt I was on my way. People at work were passing the word around and asking me what could I do to help them decorate this and that room. I was feeling great!!

Then the ball dropped and my little itsy bit of luck ran out as fast as it appeared. My husbands company wanted to transfer him to another state. I knew at that moment that all my hard work, all my connections were out the door and if I wanted to continue decorating, I'd have to start all over again from scratch. It turned out to be non-successful as I discovered that not knowing one single person where I lived was way too difficult for me to start a business all on my own. I tried a few things but in the end, I gave up. I had no luck!

It proved to me that a lot of success is being in the right place at the right time in the right conditions. It also proved to me that I didn't have the kind of passion I needed. If decorating was really what I HAD to do in my life, I wouldn't have given up. Yes a little luck would have helped but in the end, I wasn't willing to do the hard work it would have taken.

Its the same thing with writing. I know that most of us writers work really hard. However, there are people who work their tails off their entire lives and get nowhere. Others pop out one book and SHAZAM!!!! Success! A lot of untalented people who have done very little work are rewarded.

The man who invented air-conditioning died penniless because he didn’t have the LUCK to run across an investor who saw what he had. The man who created Superman handed away his idea for pennies, because he didn’t have the luck to meet a person who wouldn’t take advantage of him.

I think it just goes to show that we need both. We need to work ourselves to death to write as good of stories as we can and then we need to actually finish those stories and get them out! All the luck in the world can't help us if we don't get our stories out there. Then a little luck would sure help! It's too bad we can't just order up some luck on eBay, huh?




What about you? Do you have any instances where luck did or didn't help you along the way? Do you think writing success has to do more with hard work or luck?




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy 4th of July



I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday! My poor puppies though will get no sleep and I'll probably wake up to a nice mess because the popping of the fireworks scares them to death. They refuse to go outside. Oh well, we will survive!

But this next clip really says it all. Let's never forget!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Name that Picture

Ok, I have to admit I'm not feeling very inspired these days. My mind just isn't coming up with any good ideas to write about. So I decided to get on the wonderful world wide web and look at pictures. I've done this before and it really works. Just looking at a picture that is mystical, funny and cute, or mysterious has given me magical inspirational ideas.

So I decided to just have some fun this week and picked out several pictures I thought were really cool. Let's see what kind of inspiration we can come up with. If you feel like playing, pick one or two of your favorites and just tell me either what you would write about from this picture or what you would title the picture.

Picture 1
 
 
Picture 2
 
Picture 3 
 
Picture 4 


Picture 5
 
Picture 6 


Picture 7
 
 
Picture 8 
 
Picture 9 
 
Picture 10 
 
Picture 11 
 
Picture 12 
 
 
 
Ok, so I got a little carried away with the photo's but there are so many cool ones out there it was hard to stop! Anyway, I hope you'll play along and have fun!
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man of Steel

I've found a new reason to live. What is it you ask? My new reason to live is so I can look at the new Superman, Henry Cavil some more. I always loved Christopher Reeve, but this new guy... well he's just dreamy. I can tell he is in love with me too because his eyes were focused directly on me during that entire movie! Can you tell he's got his eye on me here?

 
 


Henry may be a gorgeous creature, but now it's time for all you Superman fans to get ready to hit me. Be gentle though, please. Now comes the truth about the movie, at least from my point of view.

For my husband, the movie started out slow which I sort of agreed with that. It seemed to drag on and on telling the story of how he came to be. And then they really didn't even show us how Superman ended up on his parents doorstep. We knew it happened, but weren't actually shown it. That was disappointing to me.

Then when we finally got to the present, we were excited. There was action. Then there was more action. And more action. Then there was blowing up. Followed by more blowing up and continued on with more and more blowing up. Then there was about 5 minutes of acting. Then more blowing up. Followed by more and more and more blowing up of buildings, machine monsters, people from the planet Krypton. Then finally more blowing up. Just when we thought they were finished with blowing up things and that the bad guy General Zod had to finally be dead... here he comes again and there was 45 more minutes of blowing things up.

The parts of the movie that were missing were scenes where Superman starts to become a real hero to the people of Smallville. I was craving a simple scene where he rescues someone in a building fire, or a bank robbery, or even a puppy about to be run over by a car! But there was none of that.

This movie was beyond ridiculous to me. I mean really, there was about 30 minutes in this 2 hr. 30 minute film of actual acting going on. The rest was computerized blowing up of things. It never ended!

I don't want to spoil the movie for those of you who haven't seen it yet so I'll shut up now. I'll just end by saying they pushed the limits for both my husband and myself, and that's bad when a husband who loves to watch things blow up was sick of it. This movie was brutal for us and we were very happy it finally ended. We won't go back for Superman II.

But as much complaining as I've done, I do have to say it's truly amazing what we can do nowadays with computerized effects. We truly do have some amazing technical geniuses in the movie industry.

Also, I need to end by saying don't let my opinion of this movie sway you into going or not going. I'm just one person on this huge planet and I have no doubt that more people will absolutely think this movie is amazing then won't. But it is a free country and this one opinionated person just had to get her say so out of her big mouth!

But in truth, I don't care how much blowing up goes on, the new Man of Steel can rescue me anytime!