Author of Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Published by Guardian Angel Publishing December 2014:

Jeremiah Lucky and the Guardian Angel
Jeremiah needs a little help and he gets it with the sudden appearance of his guardian angel. Chapter book for ages 7-10.

Jeremiah Lucky Finds Puppy Love
Jeremiah dodges a kiss from a princess and falls head over heels for a lost puppy. Chapter book for ages 7-10.

Watch for these titles coming soon:

The Whispering Chimney
Eleven-year old Bethany finds a stone chimney and discovers a beautiful but terrifying past. (upper middle grade)

(Beyond the) Stone Eagle Gate
David, age fifteen, flees a false accusation and takes refuge in a haunted, abandoned mansion. (YA, historical fiction ghost story)

The Interplanetary Adventures of Yan Sunnara: Book I Rescue on Lato
Cultural scientist Yan Sunnara rescues an unusual child on the planet of Lato with the help of an exotic and beautiful Uvian archaeologist. (Adult, soft Science Fiction, Rescue on Lato is the first of a series of four novellas.)

Cross Over
Three teens are connected by a mysterious and sometimes frightening ability to cross over from one dimension here on earth to another. This YA novel placed in the top three in Florida Writers 2013 RPLA competition. Speculative Fiction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Giving Thanks for Family

It is no secret to my friends and family that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that I was born on Thanksgiving Day. I cannot remember any Thanksgiving where I was not surrounded by at least some family. Many, many Thanksgiving Day feasts have been personally prepared and hosted by me (with family members bringing favorite dishes, of course). This is the year of our "Big Thanksgiving" at my home in West Virginia. We call it that because not every year has everyone, or nearly everyone, attending. This year will be jam packed with a new baby, a newly married couple, a new college attendee, a granddaughter who just made it to"double digits," a much-loved sister coming all the way from Egypt, and a son-in-law who just ran the NYC marathon in 3 hours 34 minutes. And all the rest of us with joys, accomplishments, and memories to share.

As I anticipate and reflect on the coming weeks of preparation and excitement, my thoughts turn to my stories. All three of my major novels and some of my shorter works have an underlying theme of family or the search for family. Two stories have high points occurring in November and scenes of Thanksgiving gatherings. As I gather with loved ones for this wonderful holiday of thanks, I like to have my characters also surrounded by love and family. May all of you who read this blog be especially blessed with the love of family and friends this coming Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flexing Muscles

I recently came across a quote from On Writing by Stephen King. "The more you use your creative muscles the stronger they will be." At last night's critique group meeting, members flexed and strengthened their creative muscles. After a brainstorming session on developing group guidelines to help keep us on track and to aide possible new members, the sharing began with the final chapter of a exciting, funny "Narnia-esque" middle grade fantasy adventure that ended with a lullaby created by the author's friend and fellow writer. Sharon brought her dulcimer, enlisted another member (me) to sing, and we closed her story in style. It was a happy, tearful ending to a story we have all grown to love.

We comment frequently in our group about how different our writing is, our voices, our humor, the concepts themselves. But one thing is clear: the creativity that has blossomed in each of us over this past year. Not only have we grown as writers polishing our work, our twice a month association has been infectious, spurring each of us on to go beyond ourselves in what we write and dream.

The second story we heard is also a middle grade fantasy of astounding creativity. It is at the "mid point" Jim says, and gave us a little diagram lesson on "plot points" that he has gleaned from a book on writing screen plays (or any good story) by Sid Field. Jim's story is full of wild characters and fantasy. We can't wait to see how it develops. In our last critiquing effort for the evening, we hovered over a query letter, pointing out strengths, eliminating, helping the writer to be concise and eye-catching.

We missed several members at last night's meeting, but their presence was felt for their encouragement has contributed to our journeys. Love you all!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A "Moving Forward Summer"

As I write this summer winds down, much too rapidly. I spent all of July and the first week of August at my home in West Virginia, escaping the Florida heat, but missing my friends here. Despite much outside yard work, I managed to do a major re-write of my middle grade novel The Whispering Chimney. Following advice given in a critique session in the June SCBWI conference in Orlando, I chopped off the first thirty pages and got the story started when my character Bethany first hears voices from the ruins of a pioneer chimney. I did weave in some of the back story after the story was cranking, and it all seemed to work. One of my "test readers" was a ten-year-old girl in my WV neighborhood. She and her mother came for a discussion after she had finished. I've been out of the classroom for a few years and it was refreshing to hear her talk about the book. In short, she loved it, identified with the main character, found her "likable" and "kid like" and enjoyed the story's up-beat ending. Needless to say, I continue to be pumped up from her review. She's exactly the type of reader I had in mind for my book. It was also interesting for me to hear her say she liked stories "told by the author" (third person) better than first person stories. I'm sending The Whispering Chimney to the same editor who gave me the critique. Hopefully, this story will be published and in the hands of many more ten or eleven-year-olds.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting ready for Orlando

   One of the workshops I'm attending in this weekend's SCBWI Florida summer conference in Orlando is on Digital Media. Emma Dryden, Rubin Pfeffer, Curtis Sponsler among others are presenting. In the past year, I have attempted to up-date myself by joining Facebook, reading more blogs, starting a blog of my own, and researching how and under what circumstances I might choose to digitally published some of my work.
   Several months ago a non-author friend recommended Nicholas Carr's book What the Internet is doing to our Brains: The Shallows published in 2010. Her point in our conversation was that reading and readers are changing, mainly by the influence of the short bits of information that sideline just about anything we might look at on the many Internet sites most of us access daily. The many attractive features of the Net (interactivity, hyperlinking, searchability, multimedia) capture our attention easily. Many are reading more and more quickly but, the author contends, seldom enjoying the total immersion into reading that deep readers previously experienced. We might follow an interest by jumping to a related link but seldom read beyond the first few sentences. Carr states a paradox: the Net seizes our attention only to scatter it. Instead of a continuous, coherent stream of information causing us to reflect and think deeply, we are exposed to a "jumble of drops." We have switched from reading to "power browsing."
   How does this affect what I write for today's youth? I'm not sure, but I do know as I revise my stories, I keep in mind a comment from a trusted writer in my writing group. She said something to the fact that "long sentences and paragraphs lose her attention." She wants the story to move more quickly, wants the dialogue to be short and sweet. Good advice for any writer. But I still want to create moments when a reader can savor a scene, empathize with a character, think more deeply.
    Despite this, the interactivity idea excites me. I have some stories where I can see the possibility of hyperlinks to enhance, create more fun for a middle grade or younger reader. Maybe my workshop will guide me to learn how to do this. If I can see this now for stories I have already written, I know I can create new stories in a format that will fit into this new age.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Variety of excellent books: 2011 Printz Awards

In addition to working on my own writing at least four hours a day, I have been reading some of the new Printz award winning books. Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi was the top 2011 winner. The author details a chilling dystopian future rife with poverty and cruelty. The main character is Nailer, probably around thirteen or fourteen, who works on a light crew to rip salvage from abandoned oil tankers in the Gulf area. In Nailer's brutal world the crew makes their quota or suffers the consequences and they are deadly. Nailer and his friend Pima find a hurricane wrecked clipper ship with a survivor, a rich and beautiful girl. Her jewelry alone would free Nailer and Pima from their life of near slavery. Nailer does not want to kill her; Pima does. She's just a "swank" after all. This story is exciting and a compelling read, but although it is very worthy, I would have placed two others above it in the award.

Perhaps my personal favorite is Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King. This Printz Honor book is exceptional in many ways. The story's structure allows the author to give great detail about all of the characters. Written in first person, each character gets their say. Vera goes through life hanging back, seeking to be ignored, getting good grades in school and working forty hours a week as a pizza delivery person. Her father, a recovered alcoholic, is convinced that alcoholism is a genetic possibility for Vera. Since he got her mother pregnant when she was only seventeen, he fears that could happen to Vera as well. So, no boys until after Vera successfully completes college. To Ken Dietz, especially after Vera's mother abandons them, work is the solution to every problem. Vera's childhood friend Charlie Kahn has died, but he's not out of Vera's life. She "sees" him everywhere, and not just one but "thousands of Charlies." It takes the whole book to find out what Charlie did, what he didn't do, and how he died. Even Charlie gets his story told in his own narrative sections.

Another of the honor books that really held my attention as a reader is Stolen by Lucy Christopher. The author is English, the story setting in the Sandy Desert of Australia. Gemma, age sixteen, has been kidnapped in an airport in Bangkok while traveling with her parents. Her kidnapper feels he has "rescued" Gemma from the false city life she has led. In the vastness of his beloved desert, he wants her to see the beauty, the freedom. Gemma fights and runs away several times, but her escape attempts are useless. Her kidnapper Ty MacFarlane has stalked her for years, wants her to be his companion, his love. Although he treats her well, Gemma knows she should not give in to loving him. The story is beautifully written with a sad, but truthful, ending.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A "Sweetheart" of a book

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (Little Brown, 2008) is a heart warming story, beautifully written and one of the best YA books I've read this past year. Childhood friends Jennifer and Cameron support each other as best friends in third grade and later meet again as teenagers. As a youngster, Jennifer is lonely, overweight, outcast at school, left alone for long stretches by her single mother who works and studies to become a nurse. Cameron is different also, suffering an abusive father and constant fear his younger siblings will also be abused. This amazing story starts when Jennifer's mother has married a kind and caring man, finished her nursing degree, and the family has moved into a better neighborhood. Jennifer is no longer Jennifer. She is now Jenna, thin, beautiful, popular at school. Yet she longs to have friends who truly "see" her. Sara Zarr demonstrates masterful writing in this highly realistic novel. The construction of her story is unique: the back story (intense and slowly revealed) written in first person present tense; the main story of Jenna as a teen is written in first person past tense. The reader gets little bits and pieces of what happened to Jennifer and Cameron when they were nine years old that caused Cameron to disappear out of Jennifer's life. The main story holds attention as well as Jenna fights with her created persona and breaks away from her more superficial friends to once again become a part of Cameron's life.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two great YA books

Yesterday I read Judy Blundell's YA book What I Saw and How I Lied. This story is a fascinating read for many reasons. The setting begins in Brooklyn and then moves to Palm Beach, Florida. Time period is 1947. I doubt if the title was the author's original choice, but I have to admit, for many teen readers, it would definitely jump off the shelf. Evie Spooner, age fifteen, comes of age in this story as she makes a choice that saves her family. That she is able to tell her lie and get beyond her own disgust and heartbreak shows the resiliency and growth of this strong, teen character. I particularly enjoyed the author's deft handling of the time period. The story's plot involves blackmail, adultery, young love and budding sexuality. Did I mention murder? A National Book Award Winner, What I Saw and How I Lied will appeal to readers for many years to come.

Before the SCBWI writer's conference last weekend, I was able to read The Spirit Window by Joyce Sweeney. Joyce is a Miami based writer who also does writing coaching. No wonder she is sought by developing writers. She is a master.  The Spirit Window was published in 1998 and is skillfully written with many layers of interest. The underlying problem deals with suppressed feelings of both fifteen-year-old Miranda and her father. Both have buried feelings about Miranda's mother's death. A visit to Florida and the subsequent death of her grandmother provide the catalyst to help both acknowledge and face their long buried feelings of loss. Preservation of natural areas is an important sub-theme and a summer love story between Miranda and nineteen-year-old Adam contributes to a heartwarming story.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Great SCBWI conference in Miami

  I'm still basking in the excitement and all the new ideas gleaned from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Winter conference in Miami, FL. Every presentation was chock full of information and inspiration. Several added a good measure of humor and Bruce Hale gifted us with a song! What a writer, actor, artist, and cool dancer! He looks good in a hat, too. Rubin Pfeffer's talk about the digital revolution really helped me get a better focus on e-books and apps. He's an agent now with a unparalleled background in publishing that spans over thirty years. I am delighted to have met and chatted with Rubin as well as Sarah Davies, Michael Bourret and Erin Murphy. These agents are at the top of their game and all those attending appreciated their approachability, warmth, and expertise.
  The editors panel enlightened us as to the editor's role in the acquisition process. The editor who supports a story must have the enthusiasm to push it through the complicated process of a sale. As one editor said, they've got to love it not just like it. This helps me understand the rejection letters I have received that praised my work and still rejected it. With my notes in hand and my own enthusiasm still brimming over, I intend to spend a busy week researching, planning, and most of all, WRITING!

Some Great MG and YA books

  • Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Red Blood Road by Moira Young
  • On Little Wings by Regina Sirois
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (Printz 2012)
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore