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 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.

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.
By Dianne Ochiltree, children's author,

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?

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.

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!