Saturday, January 31, 2009

My review of, a dog blog

Hi all,

For the past year I've been reading a particular dog blog called The blog is kept by dog lover/trainer Lindsay Stordahl and has countless articles on dog care, breeding, nutrition, health, etc.

You may read about it on Suite101, where I recently wrote an article:

If you're a dog owner, I seriously advise you to consider subscribing to this blog. It's full of practical, helpful information about dogs.


PS: The doggy in the picture is my pride and joy, Amigo. He tried to look 'cool' for the photo :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My first article on

Hi all,

I've been accepted as a regular contributor to and

My first Suite101 article was published a few days ago:

I'll be reviewing books in various genres for these two popular, high-traffic sites. If you'd like me to consider your book for a review, send me an email at


Monday, January 19, 2009

Audio Interview: The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

Hi all,

Today on The Author's Show there's a great interviewwith my co-author, Anne K. Edwards, about our book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

Check it out if you have the chance:


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Article: "Editing Secrets," by Laura Backes

Once you've plotted out your book, developed the characters and written the last word of text, the real work begins. As busy editors are bombarded with hundreds or even thousands of submissions a year, it's more important than ever that authors apply their own editing skills to their manuscripts before putting them in the mail. Checking your basic grammar and spelling are of course important, but authors need to go beyond surface editing if their work has a chance of catching an editor's eye.

* Trim, tighten, hack away. First, second and even third drafts of manuscripts are almost always laden with extra words and scenes. Take a break from your book and then read it through with a fresh eye. Write down your theme in one sentence (what the book is about, such as working through shyness on the first day of school or showing how Thomas Edison's childhood experiences influenced his adult life). The plot (or progression of facts and events in nonfiction) is your vehicle for conveying the theme to the reader. Ask yourself if each character and scene advance the plot toward communicating this theme. And decide at the beginning that you will give up your precious words and finely-crafted scenes for the betterment of the book. Pithy dialogue may be fun to read, but if it pushes your story off track, it's just a literary dead end. Take the publishers' suggested word limits seriously: no, you don't really need 3000 words to tell your picture book story about Freddy the Frog's adventures in the Big Pond.

* The elements of speech. Well-crafted dialogue can be a writer's most important tool. Dialogue is not just there to break up the paragraphs or show that your characters know how to talk; ideally, it adds to character development, moves the plot along and replaces sections of narrative. Each character should sound like himself, with speech patterns and phrasing that are unique. This is especially true with talking animal books. I see many of these manuscripts where, if I took away the words that identify the speakers, each character would sound exactly the same. Don't have dialogue repeat the narrative and vice versa; "Did you hear that? Someone's at the door!" does not have to be preceded by "They heard a sound at the door".

* Show don't tell. How many times have you heard this? It's still true. Comb through your manuscript for sentences that tell the reader how a character felt (Sara was sad) and replace with sensory descriptions (Hot tears sprang to Sara's eyes and rolled down her cheeks.) Avoid telling the reader what to think about the story (Jason foolishly decided to trust Mike one more time.) Instead, present your character's actions and decisions to the reader, and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions (incidentally, this is how you "teach" without preaching).

* Wipe out passive writing. Search for verbs preceded by "would" (would go, would sleep, would eat) replace with the past tense (went, slept, ate). Also look for actions that seem to happen out of thin air. "The door was opened" is passive, because the sentence lacks a "doer". Remember, the reader needs to visualize what's happening in the story. "The wind blew the door open" is better, because the action can be attributed to something, and it puts the most important element (strong wind) at the beginning of the sentence. Simply rearranging the words ("The door blew open from the wind") puts emphasis on a door that won't stay closed, making that the subject of the sentence.

* Be precise. One of the best ways to make your writing come alive for the reader is to use exact nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. One well-chosen word is always better than three vague ones. Adjectives like big, little, cold, hot, beautiful, scary and silly; adverbs such as quickly, slowly, loudly, and softly; and general verbs like walk, went, stayed and ate don't draw a vivid picture for your reader. Of course, sometimes these words are appropriate, but try as a rule choosing words that describe specifically what you want to communicate. Words that sound and look interesting are also a plus. Tremendous, tiny, frigid, scorching, plodded, sauntered and gulped are more fun to read, and they each lend an emotional overtone to the sentence (if your character gulps his food, you don't have to tell the reader he's in a hurry).

And finally, make sure there's a logical cause and effect relationship between the scenes of your book. Each event should build upon the ones that came before. The plot should spring intrinsically from your characters; nonfiction should unfold because of the nature of your subject and your slant on the material. It's when everything comes seamlessly together that you have a winning book. Make it look easy, but don't skimp on all the hard work it takes to get there.


About The Author

Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guest Post by Children's Book Author Linda Thieman: "Letting Your Illustrator Into Your Storyline"

Letting Your Illustrator into Your Storyline

by Linda Thieman

When I first approached an illustrator to do five illustrations for Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story, a chapter book for ages 7 to 10, the illustrator suggested I add a nasty neighbor boy to the story who could make fun of Katie and taunt her. That was my first indication that said illustrator was not getting the gist of my little story of love, healing and empowerment. I decided to wait for the right illustrator to come along.

One day, when I was online on an alternative health group, there was a request for information from a woman named Kim. Kim, Mrs. Kim Tharp, as it turned out, was a nurse who was also interested in alternative health and healing. I sent her the information and a friendship was born. But we both had a secret that we dared not share. She was a talented artist who dreamed of doing illustrations professionally, and I was a children’s book author, carefully guarding my precious little healing stories and desperately in need of an illustrator who would understand what I was trying to do.

After several months, Kim read the first book and decided to join me. Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story is the story of an almost-nine-year-old girl, Katie, who moves into an old house out in the country with her family. Katie immediately begins to suspect that a friendly ghost is living there, too. Katie plays detective to find out who the ghost is and she learns that her name is Kimble, the ghost of a ten-year-old girl. The two meet, and Katie and Kimble then set off to try to discover what happened to Kimble’s mother.

As Kim and I worked together on Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story, we spent a lot of time getting the look down. I tried to convey to Kim what I wanted each picture to portray and where it would be located in the book. We spent much of that first collaboration getting to know each other’s style and process.

By the time we started doing the illustrations for the second book, Katie & Kimble: The Magic Wish, we had all the basics down. I hadn’t given much thought to the illustrations for the second book, so Kim had a lot more freedom and input in that book. I’d say, for example, “I need a picture for chapter four and I’d like the picture to include Katie’s mom.” Then Kim ran with it and just blew me away, each time, with what she came up with. The illustrations are so moving. They tug at the heart strings of every human being who has ever longed for a mother, and by my calculation, that’s just about everyone, no matter your age.

But Kim surprised me even more after I thought we were finished with the book. In the second book, Katie & Kimble: The Magic Wish, Katie and Kimble find a coupon for a magic wish in a box of Magic Wishes cereal. They can wish for anything, but the wish will only be good for two days. After much discussion, Katie and Kimble decide to wish that Kimble could be human for two days. The wish works and Kimble fully embraces her humanity, going enthusiastically overboard in eating and riding a bike, and is largely accepted into Katie’s family, for at that point, she’s impossible to hide or explain away.

When the two days come to an end, Kimble disappears and Katie and her family are devastated. Kimble thinks she will come back in ghostly form, but since this has never happened before, no one really knows for sure.

At this point near the end of the story, I reached a transition. The dark, rainy, gloomy atmosphere that mimicked Katie’s mood was about to change with the dawn of a new day. So I asked Kim to draw a picture of the old oak tree out in the backyard with the sun coming up over the horizon.

I got my picture all right, but unbeknownst to me, Kim had decided to add an empty swing hanging from the tree. As often as the big old oak tree was used as a setting, nowhere in either book was a swing mentioned. But that image of the empty swing was so powerful, so compelling, so representative of the loneliness everyone felt at Kimble’s absence, that I decided to revise the book.

I thought that adding a swinging scene would be perfect in two ways. First, it would be one more humorous way to show Kimble going hog-wild with glee, adding swinging to eating and riding a bike. Second, I thought it would be an excellent way to extend Mr. Russell’s environmental consciousness. So I did some research on how to put a swing in a tree without using nails and without harming the tree, something Katie’s dad would be excited about and would be very glad to do for the girls.

I feel truly blessed to be able to work with an illustrator who genuinely understands the emotional and healing components in the Katie & Kimble books. At this level, in the early chapter books, young readers still need pictures and the pictures enhance the story immensely.

Children’s book author Linda Thieman writes the Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story chapter book series for ages 7 to 10, and runs the Katie & Kimble blog.

She is a former English language teacher who has created a set of reading skills activity packets and classroom materials that teachers and homeschoolers can download free of charge from the Katie & Kimble blog. These materials are guided by the national standards set for third grade reading and language skills. Linda lives in Sioux City, Iowa. She hopes to publish Katie & Kimble: The Golden Door in 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Review of Nothing Stops Noah, by Shari Lyle-Soffe

Nothing Stops Noah

By Shari Lyle-Soffe

Illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier

Guardian Angel Publishing

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-935137-20-7

Print ISBN: 978-1-935137-19-1

Children’s picture book

4-8 year olds

Nothing Stops Noah is an adorable children’s book that young children will enjoy reading again and again.

Noah is a little but very determined boy. He wants to buy his mom a gift, but he doesn’t have any money. So he decides to call his grandpa, who owns a pet shop. Grandpa offers him a job: Noah must count the rawhide bones (no problem, since he can count to ten!) and feed the pets in their cages. Nothing too difficult… that is, until something goes wrong and the pet shop turns into havoc as the mice, puppies, kittens and other pets get free. But no adversity stops Noah—in fact, nothing stops Noah! Clever boy that he is, he comes up with various ways to restore order and earn his money.

Having reviewed all books by this author, I must say this one is different than her earlier works. In this book, the text is much shorter and as a consequence there’s an illustration in every page, whereas before the stories were longer with less artwork. In this book, the prose is very tight, making each word count. The illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier are wacky and amusing, perfectly complementing the story, and ones that children will take pleasure in looking at for a long time. Though whimsical, the book carries an important message, empowering youngsters to act with purpose toward their goals. Nothing Stops Noah is a winner!

Author’s website:

Author’s blog:

Purchase from Guardian Angel Publishing:

Or Amazon:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sites for Young Authors

Hi all,

I put together a list of sites for young authors. Hope you find it helpful:

Literacy is contagious. Catch it here. You'll find animated books, children's music, puzzles and games that entertain kids while promoting child literacy.

Publishes poetry, stories and reviews written by children.

Publishes stories, poetry and reviews by kids.

Online magazine that publishes poetry, fiction and artwork by children under 12.

Tips for young authors.

Publication that publishes writing and artwork by children under 13.

This publisher considers short fiction and novels by young authors ages 13-18.

Kids, you can get your stories, poems, editorials, articles, photography or cartoons published - free of charge - for all the world to read by entering pieces in Kids Can Publish University's monthly contest.

Publishes children’s picture books written & illustrated by children under 12.

Other sites for young authors:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Book Review: There's a Spider In My Sink, by Bill Kirk

There’s A Spider In My Sink! by Bill Kirk

an Academic Wings Book

978-1-935137-25-2 1-935137-25-5 Print

978-1-935137-39-9 1-935137-39-5 Ebook

Library of Congress Control Number: 2008944188

16 pages, $9.95 CN $12.95

"There’s a spider in my sink!
Did he drop in from the brink?
Does he want a little drink?
There’s a spider in my sink!"

Thus begins this very cute picture ebook young children will love listening to and early readers will enjoy reading on their own.

The little boy in the story has a problem… a spider has suddenly taken possession of his sink! What is he to do? How to get rid of it without hurting it? After all, the only thing the spider wants is a safe home. But he has to do something! How will he be able to brush his teeth and comb his hair, when the sink is covered with cobwebs?

The story is written in iambic beat and has a smooth, fun rhythm that both children and adults will enjoy.

The colorful illustrations are appealing and possess the right touch of wackiness that well suit the story. I also found the ebook itself a pleasure to use. The book appears on the screen and all you have to do is click on the page for it to turn, giving the feeling of a real book. Even toddlers will be able to turn the pages on their own. In sum, this is a delightful little book that teaches children the good side of spiders, while at the same time developing children’s language and computer skills.

Also available in paperback.

Buy from the Publisher

Visit the author's website.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Guest Post by Beverly McClure, author of Rebel in Blue Jeans

Lucky and Wiggles, Rebel’s puppies, want to say a word or two.

Lucky: Thanks, Ms. Mayra, for letting me visit your blog. My name’s Lucky.

Wiggles: Hey! Don’t forget me. I thank you, too, Ms. Mayra.

Lucky: Oh yeah, this is my friend Wiggles. We know you like dogs, so we hope you like us. Rebel said to tell you our stories and to be polite. We’ll try, won’t we Wiggles?

Wiggles: Yap, yap. We’re always polite, except when Cleo the cat hisses at us. She scratched my nose one time ’cause I got too close to her food. I didn’t want the stuff anyhow. It smelled weird.

Wiggles: Hey, Lucky, Rebel told me she found you, but how did you get lost?

Lucky: That’s an easy question. I didn’t really get lost. I was thrown away.

Wiggles: That’s bad. Why?

Lucky: I don’t know. I guess my family got tired of me. I always acted nice, but I like to chew on socks and shoes and stuff. Maybe they didn’t like holes in their clothes.

Wiggles: I wanted a family, but nobody wanted me.

Lucky: Yeah, Rebel said she rescued you from a pet shop.

Wiggles: Yep. I was in a cage, and it was small. Even though I’m little I couldn’t stretch my legs or run. They even put me in the window sometimes so people could see me as they walked past. Have you ever had someone stare at you and make little kissee sounds? I wagged my tail and laughed at them, but they just kept going. Then Rebel walked by one day, with Will and Sully. I loved her at first sight.

Lucky: So she adopted you and brought you to the ranch. She says you like to round up cattle.

Wiggles: I’m a border collie. My job is to round up anything that walks: the horses, people, you. I tried rounding up a mockingbird one time. It pecked my nose and screeched at me then flew away.

Lucky: Rebel says I’m no special breed just all the best varieties.

Wiggles: Yeah, she likes you a lot. How did your leg get broken?

Lucky: Well, my daddy put me out of the car beside the road and I waited for him to come back, but it was getting dark and I was cold and hungry and scared. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I ran down the road hoping to catch him. But this big car barreled around a curve and hit me.

Wiggles: That’s awful! Did the car stop?

Lucky: No, and I couldn’t move. My leg hurt so bad. I whimpered; no one heard. Then this white truck stopped, and Rebel got out. She picked me up, and I rode to the ranch in her lap.

Wiggles: She put a splint on your leg, and it’s well now.

Lucky: Yup. Rebel’s a good doctor. She mended a hawk’s wing, too. She wants to go to college and become a veterinarian.

Wiggles: I’ll let her be my vet.

Lucky: You know, I was jealous when Rebel adopted you from the pet store.

Wiggles: Now you love me.

Lucky: Except when you yank on my collar to round me up.

Wiggles: Oops! Sorry.

Lucky: Will and Sully said Rebel got in trouble at the pet store. What’d she do?

Wiggles: Hee, hee. It was funny. The store owner banned her from the shop because…. No, no, it’s a secret. I’m not telling.

Lucky: Ah-oh! Here comes Cleo. Her fur is standing on end. Let’s get outta here. Bye, Ms. Mayra. Thanks, again.

Wiggles: Bye, Ms. Mayra. Nice meeting you.

Lucky: Read more about us in Rebel’s book, Rebel in Blue Jeans.

About the author (from her website):

"When Beverly was in eighth grade her teacher sent her poem “Stars” to the National High School Poety Association, and she was soon a published writer in Young America Sings, an anthology of Texas high school poetry. Forty years later, she sent an article on fire safety in the home to Happiness magazine, and it was published. In between she went to high school, played clarinet in the band, was a majorette, and graduated. Then she got married had three sons (one an angel in heaven), and attended Midwestern State University. She graduated cum laude with a teaching certificate and had a fourth son. She taught children in elementary school for twenty-two years. Writing was the farthest thing from her mind.

"Before she knew it, her sons were grown and married. She and hubby have five granddaughters (one also an angel in heaven), two grandsons, two great-grandsons, and one great-granddaughter. She married very young.

"They live in the country, where deer sometimes drink from the pond, skunks prowl the yard for leftover dog food, armadillos dig for bugs, and a roadrunner peeks in the glass doors to see what’s happening. Beverly keeps watch on the hummingbirds that come to her feeders and reports the different kinds to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Count. Black chinned and ruby throats are the most common types she sees.

"To relax she plays the piano, talks to her cats, and tries to make flowers grow under the hot Texas sun and with little water, and has discovered many interesting ancestors in her genealogy search. With her hubby, a former firefighter, she likes to travel. She teaches a woman’s Sunday school class. And she writes most every day.

God Bless."