Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Paul Brett Johnson

Title:  On Top Of Spaghetti
Author/Illustrator:  Paul Brett Johnson
Publisher: Scholastic Press  

Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis:  Sometimes you want your spaghetti plain. And sometimes a spicy meatball is just what the chef ordered. When a fried fritter fricassee parlor opens next door to Yodeler Jones' Spaghetti Emporium and Musicale, owner Yodeler decides to upgrade the menu. But all it takes is one monstrous sneeze and the chase is one to catch the runaway meatball before it's too late!

Why you should read it: When I first started reading this book, I wondered where the story line would take me. But soon I was cheering Yodeler on as he dashed through the town and tried to catch that runaway meatball. Some readers may also feel a "gingerbread man" flair to Mr. Johnson's tale but with definitely a surprise ending!

Like-O-Meter Rating: 4 out of 5...give it a try!

Monday, July 28, 2014

5 Common Myths About Getting Published, Part Three

 ***This is PART THREE of a five part series to uncover some myths about becoming a published author.  If you missed the prior parts in the series, you can find part one here, and part two here. Make sure to come back next week and find out more insider secrets about the writing industry!***

The myths I've been uncovering are nothing new and you've probably already heard some of them before but it is always nice to be reminded of what is true and what might not be on the path to publication. When I started getting more serious about my writing back in 2010 I felt a bit overwhelmed with everything I had to quickly learn to improve my writing. Then I had to figure out the difference between agents and publishers as well as trying to determine just what they were looking for. By the time someone starting asking me what social media sites I was on and how many followers I had I wanted to scream! If you've ever felt like that just take a moment, take a breath, and realize you are not alone. While I was sorting everything out I ran across maybe one of the biggest myths of all...


While it's true an agent or publisher will check to see if you have a website or blog and maybe even a Twitter or Facebook page, they know it takes time to build an "author platform". Rushing to get as many followers as you can but having nothing to give them in return will only result in leaving a bad impression with your potential readers. There is a general rule of 80/20 when it comes to social networking where you are engaged with others 80% of the time and only promoting yourself or your books 20% of the time. It will also depend on which site you are using as to what you might offer your audience. Here is a list of all the sites I currently participate in...some sporadically and some on a more day to day basis but all are set up to send me prompts of new posts I might need to be aware of. Probably while I sift through at least two to three hundred emails per day...;~)

Blogger ( is where my own blog, ON THE WRITE TRACK ( comes from. I chose Blogger four years ago for one simple was the easiest blog site for me to understand. There are advantages and disadvantages to any one of the sites so take the time to do your research to find which one is best for you. Here are some other free blog sites...

Facebook ( ...I have a personal account and a "fan page" listed under THE STORY Catcher ( My personal account is for anything that interests me and the fan page is for my blog posts, videos or pictures I think my readers might enjoy, and anything writerly. I am also a member of about a dozen Facebook communities which include wrters, readers, and people sharing other interests I have and I comment on all of those as often as I can...usually 3 to 4 times a week or more.

LinkedIn ( ...I use this site for more professional contacts. I have a lot of authors, agents, editors, publishers, librarians, etc. on this account who want to connect with me. I also list my blog posts here.

Google Plus ( ...I don't currently do much with this account except list my blog posts. People add me to their circles and I can keep in touch with them as needed.

Koobug ( ...I've just started using this site for my book reviews. It also allows you to set up an area to list all your books and there is book promotion area as well. I like what I am seeing so far.

Pinterest ( ...I really enjoy fooling around with my Pinterest account ( and currently have 47 boards for people to choose from. It's another place I can post my books and other things writerly as well as giving people a chance to see some of my other interests.

Goodreads ( ...My Goodreads account ( is full of books I've read over the years and is another place where my own books will be listed. I read the discussions but only comment occasionally.

Amazon ( ...I have an account set up on Amazon through Author Central  ( in preparation of my picture book release in January. It already lists Chicken Soup For The Soul: Angels Among Us edition containing one of my stories.

Some of these social sites I've used for years and others for just a couple of months. Yes, social networking takes time. Yes, it requires a lot of participation and some may think it only as a necessary evil. I'm very much a people person so I enjoy connecting with others. I love learning new things and participation in these sites give me the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of mindsets as well as other cultures. From a business viewpoint it expands my platform. Even before my debut picture book comes out next January I'll have put myself in front of more than 75.000 people amongst all the groups and social sites I'm active in. I can also count more than 4,000 follower from over 20 countries connecting with me on some level. It didn't start out that way. While that is HUGE for me, in the publishing world I am still a mere speck on the social networking radar but that's okay.

I may be tiny but I'm mighty and I'm continuing to get better at this whole social media thing so who knows what might happen over the next year?

What social networking sites do YOU use? Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments...

Friday, July 25, 2014


I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I made up stories in my head all the time and my dreams at night were as vivid as any movie I'd seen. But when I became a teenager I decided to try my hand at drawing. I'd always admired the wonderful illustrators who created the artwork in the books I read daily. Not that I thought I had true talent, but I wanted to explore the possibilities.

I've always loved horses and this was my attempt to duplicate a picture I saw in a book once.

I expanded to other animals and was drawn to ocean creatures. I seemed to have an eye for reproduction but didn't know if this was a path to illustration or if I was just drawing some better stick figures than other people.

I went out on a limb and tried my hand at a lot of different animals. I made mistakes and kept at it until I got my drawings to look as much as the real thing as I could. They didn't look like the illustrations in my favorite books but I didn't think they were too bad looking.

I drew this one because I was trying to work with shading. I liked the balance between the larger cross and the book. It was hard to get things right when I had no one to learn from and no way of knowing if it was any good. I drew mainly for myself and hid them away for more than 25 years. I think my sister was the only person I might have shown these to...before now...

This drawing and the next one are my favorites. When I drew this boat I used to imagine myself sailing away from my childhood and traveling to some distant place where my life would be different. I didn't know all I needed to do in order to have a new life was to simply grow up.

I really like this drawing. It came from a thumb size picture I saw in some book and I wanted to attempt to reproduce it. It's not exactly perfect but I love the whimsical nature of the mouse sitting on top of a mushroom and holding that sunflower.

I now have my first picture book, THE STORY CATCHER, coming out next January and there is a REAL illustrator out there working on the artwork for my book. I admire that person for their talent, for their ability to take my simple words and create some magic out of one grown up child's dreams...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Title:  Bats At The Beach
Author/Illustrator:  Brian Lies
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Company
Ages: 4 to 8

"Sun slips down and all is still,
and soon we can't tell sky from hill.
Now from barn and cave and rafter,
bats pour out with shrieks of laughter."

Synopsis: The sun has set and now the fun begins as all the bats gather for a trip to the beach. Roasting bug-mallows and wing-boat races are just some of the adventures to be had as bats take advantage of the moonlight on a deserted beach.

Why you should read it: I love the idea of playing at the beach but being allergic to the sun, I can appreciate the bats wanting to wait until the sun goes down. Mr. Lies' wonderful illustrations enhance the lyrical words of this rhyming picture book. Readers young and old will eagerly turn the pages of this whimsical book to see what these little bats will do next!

Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5...grab it!

Monday, July 21, 2014

WRITERLY WISDOM: Jennifer Novotney

(Part Three of my series 5 COMMON MYTHS ABOUT GETTING PUBLISHED will return next week but Jennifer Novotney's debut novel, WINTER IN THE SOUL, was released by Anaiah Press last week and she was kind enough to write a guest post for my blog. Take it away, Jennifer!)

How to Handle Pressure: Writing Under Deadlines

When thinking about deadlines, there are really two types in my book. The first are self-imposed deadlines and the second are external deadlines.

Self-imposed deadlines are those that I’ve created for myself. For example, if I want to get to ten thousand words by the end of the week, then I’ll make that a deadline for myself. I am intrinsically motivated to complete these. That means that there is something inside motivating me to complete it. There is no outside consequence if I don’t reach my goal.

External deadlines are real, hard deadlines from an outside source. For example, my edits are due back to my publisher by the end of the week. I am extrinsically motivated to reach these types of deadlines. That means there is a force from outside myself pushing me to reach my goal of completion.

The best way to handle any type of deadline, self-imposed or external, is to prioritize. My life is extremely busy and I have a number of things I’m juggling at any given moment, so when a new deadline is thrown into the mix, it can be easy to panic. I have to admit that sometimes I do this! Then, I calm down and prioritize what I have to do and make a schedule.

Procrastinating makes me anxious, so for me, it’s best not to leave a large chunk of work for the night before a deadline. I like to work in small increments, even if it’s every day. I’ve been doing this since college, and it’s worked well for me in my writing process. I actually end up reaching deadlines early in most cases.

Here’s my step-by-step approach to handling deadlines under pressure:

Step 1: Take a deep breath and assess the amount of work. 

It can be easy to let your anxiety take over when you look at a large project. Don’t let this happen! Any project, no matter how large, can be tackled by breaking it up into smaller pieces.

Step 2: Take inventory of the project as a whole. 

How long will this take? How many hours a day will you have to dedicate to this project to meet your goal? Can you work on it every day? Will you need some flex time? Will you need breaks? Can you work straight through and still keep your sanity? These are questions to ask yourself when assessing the project as a whole.

Step 3: Look at the timeline and the deadline date. 

Do you have a week? A month? Three months? This is important in assessing how much time you need to dedicate to your project every day or every week. A shorter deadline will dictate more time each day while you may have some wiggle room with a longer deadline. Whatever you do, don’t procrastinate!

Step 4: Break the large project up into smaller pieces based on how many days until the deadline. 

So, it’s simple math. If you have five days to write ten thousand words, you will have to write two thousand words a day. Apply this idea to your project and deadline. I like to have the same amount of work each day spread across my time with no days off. FInd out what works for you.

Step 5: Stick to the schedule. 

Once you’ve figured out what it will take to complete your project, stick to your outline. If you have to write two thousand words a day to reach your goal, then do it. Don’t fall into the habit of grouping two days worth of work together. It can be a slippery slope, which might be hard to master.

Step 6: Work ahead when you can. 

Let’s say you’re on a roll. Don’t just stop at two thousand words if you have more in your head. Go to two thousand five hundred for the day. Then, you’ll have a positive outlook for your deadline the next day knowing you are a quarter of the way there already. Positive thinking works wonders.


In a world divided by power and greed, seventeen-year-old Lilika harbors an intense desire to return to Winter in the Soul, the place her family left to escape the darkness that was manifesting from a coldness of the soul.

When she meets Talon, their connection is evident right from the start, and together they travel through the Black Kingdom to recover Lilika’s stolen locket. And in search of an answer to the mystery behind Winter in the Soul.

Lilika holds the key to stopping the darkness from spreading. The fate of their world lies in her hands. Will she stop the Black Kingdom before its darkness overtakes them all, or will they succumb to the darkness that is spreading across the land?

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Author Bio:

Jennifer Novotney was born in Burbank, California and lived in Los Angeles for most of her life until settling in North Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She attended California State University, earning a bachelors degree in journalism, and Northern Arizona University, earning a masters degree in English. After college, she spent several years writing and teaching, including at Pennsylvania State University.



Includes 5 autographed posters and 5 keychains 


Friday, July 18, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Just A Little Sleepwalking...

Sleep for me is a commodity hard to come by. Summers have me working with my students 12 to 14 hours each day and then coming home to work on my writing for another 3-4 hours before going to bed. Doesn't leave much time for resting. But when I was growing up, maybe I shouldn't have tried to sleep so much.

I was a sleepwalker.

Not exactly the kind that roamed the streets at night but the kind my siblings could get to do funny things when I was asleep. 

I remember one time I was napping during a hot Saturday afternoon and I later discovered my sister came into the room while I was sleeping. Did I mention I was also prone to talk in my sleep?  I can't remember if she tried to get me talking but the one thing I DO remember is suddenly waking up inside my closet where I decided I needed to change my clothes instead of finishing my nap.

Then there was the time I was SURE it was time to get ready for school and I sleepwalked into the kitchen so I could make myself a fried egg sandwich. I woke up with the frying pan in my hand and Janet smiling at me.  My sister would typically watch out for me...sometimes laughing at my antics...but always playing the big sister to make sure I didn't get into too much trouble.

I eventually outgrew the urge to wander in my sleep but unfortunately it was replaced with nightmares and night terrors until I graduated high school. With THAT kind of vivid imagination, maybe instead of writing children's stories, I should have followed in the footsteps of Stephen King and focused on thrillers instead?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


***My summer camp kids are having such fun reading all these great picture books...140 since June 1st and counting...I've decided to expand beyond the fabulous authors who have generously donated to my FREE AUTHOR PROMOTION and shine some of the spotlight on other great children's books as well.***

Title:  Dream Dog
Author:  Lou Berger
Illustrator: David Catrow
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade Books
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis:  Harry wanted a real, live dog but Dad's nose was too twitchy to have one around. Instead of being disappointed, one day Harry had a wonderful idea. He put on his X-35 Infra-Rocket Imagination Helmet to create a dog from deep within his own brain and soon the fun begins in one little boy's world.

Why you should read it:  This is another example of whimsical illustrations capturing my attention and a delightful story playing out on the pages of this fun read. Mr. Berger not only writes for children, but is also the former head writer for Sesame Street and a ten-time Emmy Award winner. With credentials like that, this book is sure to be a hit!

Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5...grab it!