Favorite Books 1st Quarter 2013

Congratulations to Armando Read, you are the winner of the autographed copy of Please Don't Remove MarGreat's Glasses by Josh Baker. I've sent you an email for your address and we'll get that out to you soon.

Speaking of great books, I've read some really good ones lately. I think my favorite one from a famous author was Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha Van Leer's Between the Lines . This story was magic to me. It's told by several POV's which can sometimes  be confusing but not the way they did it. This story is a fairytale that is told from inside the book and out. Delihah is obsessed with this fairytale and falls in love with the handsome prince in the book. But wait... did he just move? How could that be possible. He's a character in a book! To me, this book is what all of us writers envision would happen to the books and characters we create. They come to life! Here is what Jodi says about the book and creating it with her daughter .

 My favorite picture book is Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond, illustrated by Diane deGroat. Oh how I laughed at this story about an adorable short-legged pioneer dog named Charlie. Breakfast is his life, especially when bacon is involved. Charlie has dangly ears, floppy skin, and big, fat paws. He describes just how hard he has to work everyday, and of course he has to get a few naps inbetween. The illustrator did an amazing job as well. I love this book and am just upset that I didn't write it!

Not only do I love reading the big famous authors books but even more so, I love reading books that my author friends have written. Last year, I think my favorite friend authors book that I read was Courtney Rene's A Howl in the Night. This is a great paranormal book with fascinating characters, some of which turn into wolves. Not werewolfs, but wolves, which are such cool beings. I felt myself wanting to be one while I was reading about them! Courtneys voice is unique and comes out with such wit in all of her books. I sure hope she is busy working on a sequel to A Howl in the Night because I know myself and her fans want to see one!

 Next is Crime in the Big Easy by Deborah Lynne. Guess where it takes place! You guessed it, right in the heart of New Orleans. This book is a mystery, crime with a little bit of romance mixed in. This is a must read for all fans of that genre. The gorgeous red-head, Taylor, that you see on the cover is an independent strong-willed journalist who doesnt let anyone stop her when it comes to going after a good story! And you can imagine what kind of good stories come out of New Orleans! Taylor meets her match though when she meets the handsome detective, John. Deborahs characters are vivid, vibrant, and leave you wanting more!

But my favorite of all is of course my mother and sisters new book Twist of Fate. This not only is a well written mystery/romance novel, it is a life long dream of theirs. One in which they both worked their butts off to accomplish. There 2nd in the series is sitting at their publishers desk as we speak and hopefully will be published soon. Both my mother and sister have been doing some form of writing their entire lives and to me, their writing style reflec
ts that. I not only enjoyed their book tremendously, I also love reading their blog posts each week. Take a peak when you get a chance and show your support by joining their blog. You can read about my mothers difficult journey writing with macular degeneration. She actually has to type in the computer and use a software program that speaks what she writes back to her because her eyes can't read what she writes. Anyway, check it out when you get a chance SwopeParente .

That's it for me. What was your favorite book you've read so far this year?

Featuring Author, Josh Baker and Giveaway

And the winner of last weeks giveaway for an autographed copy of The Pea in Peanut Butter is Jan Moran. I'll be contacting you, Jan, for your address.

Today I'm introducing a very interesting and talented author, Josh Baker. He has most graciously offered to giveaway an autographed copy of his book Please Don't Remove MarGreat's Glasses. All you need to do is make sure to join my blog if you haven't already, like his facebook page, and leave a comment. You can do all this through the Rafflecopter at the end.

Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses is an inspirational coming of age story that follows the trials and tribulations of a Timothy Clement, a privileged teenager. He comes from a wealthy family and is expected to pursue a legal career like his esteemed father. Losing his mother to cancer, Timothy is no longer under her protective wing and consequently has adopted his father’s atheist views. Like many teens, Timothy’s longing for an adult identity paired with weak spiritual foundation has left him ill prepared to defend his faith when challenged. He has been seduced by glamorous rebellion.
As Timothy prepares for his first year of law school, he and his two closest friends embark on one last adventure before entering adulthood. This puts them in the middle of Miami’s seedy nightlife - complete with parties, wild girls, and various illegal activities. Things go horribly wrong when Timothy crosses the wrong people and his younger brother Stephen pays for Timothy's reckless behavior with his life. Stripped of his status, abandoned by his friends and family, and incarcerated, Timothy is forced to reevaluate his life, and in particular his atheist beliefs. In isolation, only his amateur comic drawings bring him any solace. His comics play an important role in his self-discovery, rehabilitation, and poetic penance.
During his journey, Timothy meets many colorful characters; the most important of which is Brother Jude who takes an interest in helping Timothy when everyone else has turned their back on him. It’s a thankless endeavor at first, leaving others to question why he bothers. As the layers of Jude’s character unfold, we gain insight into his motives.
Josh Baker, the author was raised Catholic, but like many young people he abandoned his faith after high school. He went on to embrace an agnostic worldview and accompanying secular lifestyle. For years he was a harsh critic of organized religion - Christianity in particular. By the grace of God, and the intervention of His spirit, Josh experienced the gift of renewal approximately three years ago and returned home.
When asked if there was a reason that he chose to write this book for the intended audience of young adults, Josh said, “He feels it is critical to evangelize to young people, and to do it in terms they can relate to. The enemy certainly knows this as evidenced by today’s mainstream television programming and popular music. In this digital age, we cannot be complacent and rely solely on traditional means of evangelizing. The book does a great job addressing common misconceptions and misrepresentations of our faith in contemporary language and presentation which young adults will find credible and engaging.”
As a child Josh loved developing interesting characters and then constructing stories to showcase their unique personas. Writing allows him to channel his creative streak in a way that is very rewarding.
Josh has been busy writing and drawing new MarGreat comics for children and teens. He’ll be uploading them to his website on a regular basis. He’s also begun writing his next book which is a Christian themed mystery/suspense thriller dealing with the moral dilemmas of genetic engineering. It will keep readers guessing right up until the end.
His short story, “Easter Plans” won Grand Prize in the April 2012 Christian Choice Writing Contest.
You can check out more about Josh at: 

Giveaway winner will be announced on my blog next week, Thursday March 28th.

Interview with Illustrator, Valerie Bouthyette & Giveaway!

Today is an exciting day! I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Valerie Bouthyette, the illustrator who so magically brought my children’s picture book The Pea in Peanut Butter to life! She is so talented and perfectly depicted my vision for the book. I am honored to have worked with her and thrilled to be working with her again on the sequel to my book, Inside the Magic of Words. I have every confidence that she will do a fantastic job once again.

And if that isn't great enough, I'm also giving away an autographed copy of The Pea in Peanut Butter coloring book version. The coloring book has the entire story in the front and coloring pages in the back. All you have to do for a chance to win is follow my blog, if you aren't already, and leave a comment. That's it! Each comment counts as a chance to win. I'll announce the winner on next weeks blog.

Now, here is a bit about Valerie.

Valerie Bouthyette has been drawing ever since she could hold a crayon.

She creates in her studio nestled in the farmland of upstate NY which she refers to as "her heaven." An award winning graphic and fine artist, Valerie continues to call on her imagination and memories of childhood to create illustrations that warm your heart and make you smile. You can see more of her work at

In her spare time, Valerie does a bit of farming, plays with her four dogs, and is training two young horses. She is married to Dr. Pierre-Yves Bouthyette, a professor at Elmira College and has two fabulous grown children ~ Joseph and Katie Vigliotti. She has recently become certified to teach Elementary School in NY State

Below is our interview. I’ve also included throughout the interview, some of her illustrations. Enjoy and thank you, Valerie!
1.Valerie, when I saw your sketches of my character, Kailee, I was amazed that you had captured my vision of her so perfectly, especially when we had never met or even talked. How did you do that?

This is going to sound weird, but I just imagine the story as I read and the images pop into my head. I think, it’s the sign of a good manuscript when I can do that.

2. Do you have a special method of how you come up with your visions for your illustrations? Do you go to a special place to give you inspiration?

I generally work with my horses (Reilly, Chief and Clancey) or take a walk out to the river with my dog Maggie. (I have three dogs, O'Malley, Peanut and Maggie) but Maggie doesn't run off and she loves to go swimming and look for fossils with me). It’s so peaceful doing those things and I can “reset” my whole being by doing that.
I also think back to my childhood memories.....I grew up the middle of five sisters....what a blast! Our house was always full of good energy, love, patience and unconditional love.

We also had lots of pets which taught us how to be responsible and so that we would all have a special friend of our own. You may have had a bad day at school, or maybe rode your bike to far away from home and got in trouble, but your pup would always be there for you to suffer through time

3. Are most of your illustrations done in pencil, watercoloring, or some other form?
 I always begin with hand sketched images in pencil. Then I finish them up with watercolor and ink, colored pencil or digitally. It depends on the feeling I want to capture in the artwork. Sometimes I use a combination of all three.

4. Did you have to do several drawings of Kailee before you came up with the perfect illustration of how you wanted her to look? What prompted you to give her pigtails?

Kailee just evolved as I drew her….again….she just flowed out of my pencil effortlessly.

5. Do you like to have input from the author or do you prefer to have total control over what the illustrations should be?

It all depends on the work I am illustrating. Sometimes I love imput….sometimes I suggest things and sometimes the imagery just flows because the writing is so wonderful.

6. About how long does it take you to complete a picture book?

It generally dedicate two weeks to illustrate a book. This is to give me some time to get acquainted with the manuscritpt. Sometimes the illustration sketches evolve in one night and I can’t stop drawing….sometimes it takes a few days.

7. Do you find yourself sketching one page at a time or do you do it sporadically. A little on one page here, a little on another there?

I’ll illustrate a book from beginning to end. This helps create a flow of events between illustrations. For me, it’s like watching a movie in my head as I read.

8. Do you have a book that was your favorite to work on? Or one that you are most proud of?

I love so many of the books I have illustrated. My favorites however, like the Pea in Peanut Butter, continue to make me smile every time I look at the illustrations ~ to me that spells success.

9. What made you decide you wanted to illustrate picture books?

I’ve been drawing, since I could hold a crayon….I still color and I love to illustrate til this day. I’ve always wanted to share my artwork! I love that I can make others happy when they see my work.

10. Do you do any other forms of art other than illustrating picture books?

I am an award winning fine and graphic artist as well. The example at right was in tribute to a firefighter, William Johnston, a close friend that was lost in the 9-11 attacks. He was found in one of the stairwells in Tower One the following November. That piece now sits in the Mayor's Office in Mount Pocono PA and won best in show.

11. How did you hook up with Futureword Publishing? Do you have other publishers that you work with?

Futureword found me. (glad they did). I work for a variety of educational publishers, authors and novelty companies.

12. What makes you the happiest about illustrating picture books?

That I can make people smile! That I am doing what I love to do.

13. What else are you working on now?

At this time I am working on a series of educational books, a book about a magic hat and a boys potty training book.

14. If an author would like to hire you to illustrate their work without going through a publisher, is that possible? If so, what steps do they need to take?

They can contact me at my studo: or visit one of my websites:

Or which is my latest endeavor -

15. If you could illustrate for any famous author in the world, who would it be and why?

I would have liked the opportunity to illustrate for Dr. Seuss….he makes me smile.

And now just for fun:

16. Since we just finished celebrating Christmas, is there a favorite tradition that you just have to do every Christmas?

No hot chocolate til the first snowflake falls

No shopping or Christmas music until after Thanksgiving is over

You must believe in Santa Claus and the magic of the season or you'll miss the spirit of Christmas

Midnight mass to celebrate Jesus's birthday....stay up late (who can sleep on Christmas Eve?) Get up a the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought.

Fill your home with family and friends...have a huge Christmas dinner with Roast Turkey, sweet potatoes, creamed cauliflower, Uncle Bill's special potatoes and deviled eggs!

I bake Christmas cookies, and decorate so every room in the house sparkles with the magic glow of Christmas and the nativity sits on the mantle. A Christmas tree with homemade ornaments and lots of sparkly lights, candles in the windows, and I even decorate the barn for the horses.

17. Chips, cookies, fruit, or nuts?

Love them all….but French Fries are my favorite food of all times!

18. If you could star on any TV show, which show would you choose? And what kind of character would you be?

I think I’d like to play the person that has all the answers and helps everyone find their way. My favorite TV show is Parenthood.

19. What’s your favorite animal and why?

Horses and dogs. Both have the ability to communicate and work alongside you. They bring you peace and speak to you with their eyes. They can always tell when you are in a playful mood, or need a hug.

20. If the President of the United States said, “Valerie, I want you to make a new law that Americans have to follow,” what would that law be?

LOL….that he wouldn’t make laws. People are smart enough to look after themselves.

Oh….and declare that every child gets paper and a box of crayons!

21. Would you rather be fat and happy, skinny and alone, famous with no privacy, or rich and greedy? (not an easy question, huh)

Hmmm…..not easy. Fat and happy of course! The operable word here is happy! People come in all shapes and sizes and we should love each other for who we are as a person.

Famous with no privacy? That would be fun for a while, huh?

Rich? Good ~ but only if you aren't greedy. I believe God gives us gifts and we should share them.... but not because of a law made by the President; because it's the right thing to do.

Greedy – not so good...but those people won't be ever be happy, don't you think? Money doesn't replace love.

22. What do you want people to know about you that they probably don’t know already?

Hmmmm……that choosing being a full time Mom and selling Tupperware were the best memories I have! I was able to nurture my children, let them be creative (you should have seen my house) and follow their dreams.

That was so much fun! Thanks again to Valerie. If you'd like more information about Valerie, check out her website here. 

And watch my blog for updates on our new book together, Inside the Magic of Words.

On next weeks blog, I'll be hosting another giveaway for author Josh Baker for his book Please Don't Remove MarGreat's Glasses!



A Quicky Post

Today is going to be a short/quick post. First off I'd like to tell everyone that one of my children's stories titled Hippytoe Gets a Frog in her Throat has been published in Knowonders new book of 31 bedtime stories! My story is in their 4th issue. Click here to purchase your copy.

I'm impressed with this book and thrilled that Knowonder is doing these. One of my other writing friends, Anne Johnson, also has a story in this issue so congratulations to her too!

Tonight, I am the speaker for a writing group. It's my first time and I'm feeling a bit nervous!! However, I know my subject matter very well so I think I'll be ok. Wish me luck!

Well that's it for me this week, I told you it'd be quick! Tune in next week for my interview with Valerie Bouthyette, the illustrator for my book The Pea in Peanut Butter. She is also going to be illustrating the sequel titled Inside the Magic of Words. She does fantastic work!

See ya then!