Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Jennifer Plecas

Title: Pretend
Author/Illustrator: Jennifer Plecas
Publisher: Philomel Books
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis: Father and son bond on the high seas of their imagination as a couch becomes a ship and a staircase becomes a mountain for two adventurous travelers to the land of pretending.

Maybe you should read it: The artwork and story line is simple but, something seemed to be missing from the telling of this tale. I get the concept of one young boy wanting his father to step into the world of pretending with him but for me the action seemed somewhat forced and I wasn't sure if at one point Dad wasn't a bit irritated by the continual role playing his son was expecting from him. The overall tone of the story was sweet but it left me wondering if this book might be an acquired taste for some readers.

Like-O-Meter Rating: 3 out of 5...take it or leave it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Making Your Twitter Pitch Sparkle by Author Emily Ungar

This entire sentence is all the room you have to create a Twitter pitch--so you need to make every space count, and don’t forget the hashtag!

It’s true. The entire sentence above is 140 characters, the maximum length of a Tweet. It may sound like plenty of room to attract the eye of an acquisitions editor or literary agent, but once you get to typing, that’s not quite the case. You have a lot of elements to cram into your Tweet. But once you include the basic info, you’re not done yet. This isn’t like high school homework, in which you’re doing just enough to get by. You need to include words that stand out in an endless Twitter feed. Because when you’re looking in a jewelry case, won’t your eyes automatically land on the most sparkling gem?

Get the Basics Down

When you’re pitching, you need to lay the groundwork first. Be sure to include:

Hashtag. Please don’t forget this! Pitch contests include a very specific hashtag. If you don’t use it, no one will see it. Watch for typos, too. #ThrowMeAnElevatorPitch can accidentally become #ThrowMeAnElevatorPinch. Not only will your pitch go unseen, you’re asking for trouble. Because no one wants to be pinched on an elevator.

Genre/Category. Many pitch contests include multiple categories. Know the common abbreviations for the audience you write for. The most common are: PB (picture book), CB, (chapter book), MG (middle grade), YA (young adult), WF (women’s fiction), NA (new adult), SF (science fiction), and UF (urban fantasy). Use the appropriate acronym so you’ll be seen easily and look like you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t). This is also a space saver. If you write out MG instead of middle grade, you’ve just saved yourself 10 characters to use on a more eye-catching word.

Follow the rules. In most contests, the only users who “favorite” Tweets are the editors and agents who are looking to read your material. Don’t get anyone’s hopes up or generate confusion. If there’s a pitch you’d like to support, don’t “favorite” it. Retweet it to help those editors and agents see that pitch.

Polish Your Gems

Bring Out the Quirks. Sorry, but “young woman in love must save boyfriend from impending doom” is a yawn. Even if that is a quick summary of your plot, you’re selling yourself short. What’s special about your main character, plot, or stakes? Does your main character only walk on stilts? Will her love interest be forced to forever live inside the windmill at a miniature golf course if she doesn’t fight the villain? Be specific, and throw out anything that’s different. Being vague will not earn you as many pitches. Make it quirky. If it’s not quirky, at least make it different. 

They’re not Blue Stones. They’re Sapphires! In a Tweet, every word counts. How can you make your Tweet sparkle? You’re a writer, so this is no time to slack on creativity. Use eye-catching words and concepts that aren’t conventionally paired together. The “blonde cheerleader” is a cliche, but “blonde cheer priestess” is probably not. Make someone do a double take when they read it!

As Twitter pitch contests gain popularity and help to match more and more writers with editors and agents, the art of crafting the perfect pitch is constantly evolving. Be creative, be brief, and follow the rules. Good luck throwing out that first pitch!


On the same day she turns twelve years old, Savannah moves away from everything she’s known in sweet, sunny Georgia to preppy Washington D.C. Not only will she miss her best friends Katie and Tessa, Savannah will start a new school. She soon discovers that her schoolmates love to brag—about their clothes, their parents’ governmental connections, and even who has the in with the school authorities.

Unhappy and lonely, Savannah decides if she can’t make life better, she can at least make it sound that way. Soon she is living in the childhood home of George Washington, riding in the limo of the vice president’s daughter, and even moving into the former Luxembourg embassy.

All is well until she learns that her true friends from Georgia are coming for a visit. Now Savannah must create the life she’s been talking about in her letters—and fast! Will Savannah find herself or lose her friends?

**Available for purchase through Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon**

Emily Ungar is a graduate of Indiana University, where she majored in journalism. After living in seven different U.S. states by the time she finished college, she now lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband and very curious twin toddlers. When she isn’t chasing after her twin boys, Emily loves to curl up in a chaise lounge with a book in one hand and a lemon cupcake in the other. Emily loves connecting with her readers, so she welcomes you to say hi on her blog at

Friday, August 15, 2014


The summer has been long and busy and hot, but now that the kiddies are back in school I can actually take a moment to relax...a little...and think about getting away for a long weekend.

When I was growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, my mother created a summer time routine that never varied until I was in my late teens. Every year mid summer she would get an urge to visit her brother and his wife in Oklahoma. Aunt Betty and Uncle Elmo owned what I would call a farmer's market/souvenir shop on the outskirts of the Cherokee Reservation.

I can remember her coming into my bedroom in the middle of the night to wake me up just so I could wedge myself between my parents in the front seat of our old car and go back to sleep while my siblings crammed themselves into the back seat. My father drove all night and most of the following day while my mother read the maps and dangled her feet out the window. There was always fried chicken and bologna sandwiches to munch on so the long trek from the Louisiana swamps to the hills of Oklahoma was never interrupted by sightseeing detours. Our destination was our relatives' house and since my father wasn't fond of driving all that way in the first place, he wanted to arrive in the shortest amount of time possible.

Once there, I knew I would get the chance to see some real, live Native Americans as they frequented my uncle's store almost daily. To a young kid from the swamps, it was like seeing aliens dropped down from the Mother Ship and I would hide behind the counter and then peek out to see what they would buy. Eventually, as I got older, I would help weigh the fruits and vegetables on an old timey set of scales before bagging the produce for them. My uncle treated everyone the same...all were welcome at his store...and this was during a time when others might not have treated their neighbors from the reservation so kindly.

There are many holes in my memories of those trips but there is one memory so vivid all I have to do is close my eyes and I can summon both the sight and the smell of it. On every return trip our trunk would be loaded down with fresh apples and oranges as well as other produce to help supplement a poor man's dinner table. My favorite part about those apples was the fact they were packed in cardboard boxes with slits in the tops and on the sides. If you lifted the top lid and quickly pushed it back down while holding your nose really close to the top slit, you could drink in the delicious aroma of crispy sweet Red Delicious apples picked fresh from the orchard just a few days before. To me that was one of the most heavenly smells on earth and if I had the chance to smell it again today I know it would bring back flashes of those lovely summer vacations with my Oklahoma kin.

I think it might be time to go grab me an apple and reminisce ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Title: Old Bear and His Cub
Author/Illustrator: Olivier Dunrea
Publisher: Philomel Books
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis: Old Bear love his cub with all his heart. Cub loves Old Bear with all his heart. Sometimes Cub doesn't want to listen to Old Bear and sometime Old Bear finds out its time to listen to Cub.

Why you should read it: I'm usually drawn to picture books talking about the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild because there aren't as many books available on the subject as other themes. This author not only tells a sweet tale about two creatures taking care of one another, but also adds their own delightful illustrations to help showcase the universal theme of love and caring. Readers young and old will want to snuggle down to enjoy this book over and over again.

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Common Myths About Getting Published: Part Five

***This is PART FIVE of a five part series to uncover some myths about becoming a published author. You can read part four by going here. I hope you enjoyed this series and found resources you could use. If you'd like more of these type of series, comment below and I'll see what I can do!***

The other myths we looked at have covered whether or not you need a degree in creative writing to become an author, do you need an agent to be offered a book contract, will agents expect a huge author platform before they consider your manuscript and is the traditional publisher the only publication path. 

Despite the various options and outcomes available to every writer, to the lucky ones who garner a book contract, there is one final myth to overcome.


You've spent countless hours writing, rewriting, revising, and polishing your story. Query letters have been sent out and you have managed to receive an offer to publish your story. Take time to do the happy dance but realize the hard work of promoting and marketing your book is just beginning.

What methods will you chose to get the word out? Are some options better than others? That would depend partly on your marketing budget, partly on the networking you might have done prior to any book contract being signed, and partly on your own creativity in sharing your good news with the world.

Here are some things to make sure you include in your promotion arsenal when working on your marketing plan:

1. Media Kit...this kit should include press releases, book blurb, biographies, author photo, business cards, promotional materials, and a question & answer list.

2. Book Reviews...this would include favorable reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Koobug, and blogs as well as local or national publications.

3. Copy of your should already have an email list generated through your website or blog or now would be the time to start one. I use MailChip ( which gives me a list of potential readers of my books whom I can send updated info to such as the release date of my books, schedule of book signings or speaking engagements, interesting articles, and things like games, contests, or giveaways.

4. Endorsements or Recommendations...some of your ARC copies should have been sent to people who were willing to provide verbal support of your book. Now would be the time to gather copies of those endorsements and recommendations to add to your publicity kit.

5. Order List...make sure you provide a list with all the links on how readers can purchase your book through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Sourcebooks, Kindle, Nook, and other distributors.

6. Quizzes, Contests, & Giveaways...have some idea of the different ways you can generate interest in your book. Things like blog hops and twitter blitzes create excitement during the first few months following an official book release but additional readers will be drawn to your book through the chance to possibly win an autograph copy of it or even swag items.

7. Print Media...even if you have a publicist, it is still the author's responsibility to do their part to promote their book. This includes sending book release information to industry trade magazines like Publisher's Weekly (, Library Journal (, and major daily newspapers as well as regional or local newspapers.

6.  Email blasts...this is where you partner with others who are willing to share your good news with their own readership via email announcements.

I know marketing and promoting a book can seem overwhelming to some newbie authors like myself. I've just been assigned my publicist through Anaiah Press ( and now I'm gearing up to start promoting my picture book, THE STORY CATCHER, as I begin the countdown to my book's release date in January, 2015. 

You can be sure I will double check this list to make sure I have all my ducks in a row and everything thing in place because when it comes time to do my happy book release day dance, I won't want to have forgotten anything!

What marketing things did YOU do to help promote your book? What worked and what didn't? Share your marketing success stories by commenting below...

Friday, August 8, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Take A Ride On The Soul Train

I discovered early on that I was born to love music. I don't mean I'm able to tolerate it or that I simply enjoy listening to songs. I LOVE MUSIC! 

I was born to a mother who was part Native American and Cherokees sure do love their music. Then there was my father who was part Cajun and most people have heard of the Zydeco thing. Add to that the fact my maternal grandfather was a composer who built his own violin and my father would play the accordion for me growing up, I had no choice but to learn to appreciate the beauty of listening to great sounds...everything from the Grand Ol' Opry to Doug Kershaw.

I didn't know there was any other kind o music until my middle teens when I was allowed to start watching American Bandstand to Soul Train and The Midnight Special.

There's something about music, no matter the style, that connects with me and lifts my spirit. Even when it was time to grow up and leave my hometown I made sure my records traveled with me...a lifeline during hard times and a way to light up my future. Even today...years can still find me rocking out to a good tune in my car and remembering some of the good musical moments from my childhood down on the bayou...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Title: Roly Poly Pangolin
Author/Illustrator: Anna Dewdney
Publisher: Penguin Group
Ages: 2 to 5

Synopsis: Toddlers and very young readers will delight in the adventures of Roly Poly as he explores the big world around him. Things seem awfully scary to the little Pangolin but he soon finds out what seems strange at first might turn into a pleasant surprise if he would just open his eyes to the possibility.

Why you should read it: The bright colors and adorable illustrations of Roly Poly provided by Ms. Dewdney's book caught my attention from the start. Beyond the cute cover, this is a story with universal appeal for the very young. The world can be a scary place to a toddler but it can also be filled with new friends and fun experiences. With a new school year just around the corner, ROLY POLY PANGOLIN could help pre-schoolers adjust to the new school routine and maybe even discover new friends. This would be a great addition to any home library.

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