Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Ryan Heshka






***In celebration of one of my favorite times of the year, come join the fun as I romp through adorable holiday themed picture books as we count down to Halloween***



Title: Monster Town
Author/Illustrators: Ryan Heshka
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis: As soon as the sun sets on Monster Town, creatures of all kinds go to work. So hop on the Ghoul Bus and see for yourself. But be warned, it can be a bit scary out there!

Why you should read it: I like how picture books give young readers a chance to visit other worlds and MONSTER TOWN is no different. Mr. Heshka provides a wonderful play on words as we travel through the streets after dark to see how the other side lives. Full of familiar faces, everyone will smile to discover what their favorite Halloween characters actually do whenever they aren't out trick or treating!

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO PUBLISH A BOOK, Part Five



It's incredible the number of things that need to be done before a book's release. And I'm not even talking about the editing, revising, proofreading, illustrations, formatting, binding, creating ebook files, or any of the other things my publisher, Anaiah Press is doing as we count down the final days before my book, THE STORY CATCHER, is born on January 20th of next year.

I'm thinking about how an author has to be prepared on THEIR end by release day. This week I'm focusing on future book reviews of my manuscript. When I signed my book contract, the head of Anaiah's marketing/publicity department, the lovely Melinda Dozier, sent me some "homework" to do in preparation of my book's release and one of the things I needed to provide is a list of anyone who might be willing to review my book when it comes out. 

The only way to find THAT out was to ask and boy, was I overwhelmed with gratitude at the number of people eager to help me out. I quickly created a STORY CATCHER STREET TEAM and here are some of the wonderful supporters of my work who told me they would be happy to review my book:

Newbauer,Connie
Bain, Karen
Milhollan, Robin
Cox, Tracey M
Snow, Meradeth 
Taylor Saba N
Irwin, Christine
Jensen, Stacy 
DeWitt, Johnell
LaCroix, Debbie 
Call, Kirstine 
McPherson, Kim
Lin, Emily
Reid, Jennifer 
Cho, Tina
Brock, Belinda
Hill, Susanna 
Sadd, Donna
Marple, Joanna
Bayar, Amanda
Vucak, Stefan
Schrauben,Cindy
Weibel, Erik

Others signed up to be part of my book tour and still others will show their support through the actual purchase of my book. I have tremendous respect for those willing to review my book and I value their honest opinion of THE STORY CATCHER. I know some will like it while others might not find it to be their cup of tea. But that's okay! I value ALL reviews...positive and negative...because I see validation of my work in the good and challenges to improving the commercial appeal of my stories in the bad. Always a lesson to be learned on that path to publication.

I've also listed some blogs and websites below who offer all types of book reviews. Some support the smaller presses, some are on a much larger scale but ALL have one thing in common...a deep, sincere love of books!

Bergers Book Reviews...http://bergersbookreviews.com
Association for Library Service to Children... http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncb/ncbsubmissions
Through The Looking Glass... http://lookingglassreview.com/books/
Readers Favorite...https://readersfavorite.com/

What about you? Do you know of a book review blog or website to add to my list? If so, please share by commenting below.

Oh yeah...one other thing. How do you like the latest promotional piece I made today to help support my new brand identity?






Friday, September 26, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: The Adventures Of Billy







Every kid needs a sidekick when they are young. Somebody to be the buffer between them and the world. Someone to tell their secrets to.  My sidekick was Billy.  I don't know at what age Billy came into my life...maybe when I was three or four years old...but he remained a steadfast confidant to all my hopes and dreams until I was well into my teenage years.

I can remember one Fall when I was about six or so when every day my mother would go into her bedroom and all you could hear was the whirring sound of her old treadle sewing machine. Sometimes I was allowed to watch her as she put together my new school clothes. But when that door was closed, it mean secrets were happening in that room and no amount of begging would get my mother to tell me what she was doing.

It wasn't until Christmas that year when I found out. She found a small citrus crate and covered it with the old sticky contact paper people used to line their pantry shelves with. It was white with small flowers on it and magically changed that old wooden crate into a lovely baby's bed. Then she spent hours sewing and stuffing the mattress, pillow, and sheets to go with it. She must have spirited Billy away from me in my sleep so she could measure him because that Christmas he also had a new wardrobe of baby clothes. I spent many a happy hour putting that doll to sleep and reading him stories.

But life for Billy wasn't all fun and games. Even the life of a baby doll can be harsh. One day while I was playing with him outside, the neighbor's dog took an instant liking to Billy and wanted him for himself. A tug-o-war ensued with one of poor Billy's jointed legs being torn from his body. Taking his prize, the neighbor's dog ran off while I sat on the porch steps crying over the loss of a plastic limb. Then I did the only logical thing a six year old could do. I didn't want my poor friend to go through life with only one leg so I promptly pulled off the other leg!

For the rest of Billy's existence in my life he seemed quite content to get around by bouncing on his butt. You see, it didn't matter to me that Billy was "handicapped". He still knew how to keep my secrets and that meant the world to me.

Years later, I returned to my old home after both my parents died and I was named executor of their small estate. Tucked away in the back corner of the attic was a box and inside, wrapped in an old blanket was Billy. I was amazed my mother had kept him but then I'm sure she realized how much he'd meant to me all those years ago. Maybe it was just her way of keeping HER "baby" close to her long after I had left home...




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Hannah E Harrison






Title: Extraordinary Jane
Author/Illustrators: Hannah E Harrison
Publisher: Dial Books For Young Readers
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis: Jane is ordinary. Her family is extraordinary. Can one little dog find her place in the circus just by being herself?

Why you should read it: I enjoy reading all types of picture books from adventurous to slightly scary to silly. But when a picture book blends sharply crafted words with amazing illustrations to help pass along a life lesson to it's audience, I usually sit up and pay special attention. Ms. Harrison has written a simple tale about an adorable mutt and combined it with vibrant artwork to not only immerse her readers into the world of the circus, but to also reinforce the idea that just being oneself still can make a person special in someone else's eyes!

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


Monday, September 22, 2014

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO PUBLISH A BOOK, Part Four







Or maybe this post's title should be HOW KROGER HELPED MY MARKETING PLAN?

I woke up this morning wondering what I would write about today and for some reason my grocery shopping trip this past weekend popped into my head. I don't know if you have a Kroger where you live, but it is one of the largest grocery store chains in my town. Over the years I've shopped at different stores depending on my mood and what sales were running. I'm not one of your "brand" shoppers. Or at least I didn't think I was until it dawned on me this morning how subtle Kroger's marketing plan has been to win me over and yet so "in my face"...

1. OFFER SOMETHING CONSISTENT

Kroger sends me an email every week tempting me with their latest specials. They aren't shoving their wares down my throat but every week I know I can depend on that little email saying "hey, come take a look at what's happening over in my corner of the world". A writer serious about expanding their fan base can learn from that. If you have a blog then have a regular posting schedule and stick to it. It doesn't matter what goes into that post as long as you are consistent about it. If your blog is a writer's blog then don't start writing about how you are crocheting your dear aunt a sweater for Christmas...unless of course you can tie that back to writing somehow. My blog has always been aimed at writing/seeing the positive side of things so I always make sure whatever I write falls under one of those two categories. I've written 660 blog posts so far and if you look at any one of them you will find that is the driving theme in all of them.

2. OFFER SOMETHING TEMPTING

Every week Kroger offers a Free Friday coupon. They send me an email on Wednesday to tweak my interest about visiting their website on Friday to discover what the free coupon might be. The item doesn't usually cost much...this week is was Marie Calendar's Breakfast Pot Pie. Some weeks I'm not interested in picking up their free coupon but EVERY week I make sure I visit Kroger's website because I don't want to miss out on the possibility of treating myself to something free. Kroger doesn't bang on my door and yell at me to buy their stuff. They simply send a friendly reminder saying, "we want to show our appreciation for your loyalty by offering you a gift as a way of saying thanks". I don't HAVE to take them up on their offer but in this day and age of rising costs and diminished customer service, even one small gesture like Kroger's Free Friday coupon subtly reminds me why I like shopping there in the first place. I'm going to be revamping the look of this blog in the next few months and will be adding some free things as MY way of showing my appreciation for all the wonderful visitors who take a moment out of their busy days to stop by. Yes, it's smart marketing but it also ties into the caring and sharing person I am so I'm excited about being able to do this for my readers.

3. OFFER A "BRAND" TO IDENTIFY WITH

There are many other grocery stores in my city...just now I thought of about six other companies offering basically the same thing...but when I need a loaf of bread I immediately think Kroger.  For me, they have managed to capture my attention in such a way that their BRAND is seared forever into my brain when it comes to grocery shopping. I will still look at the other store's ads but unless there is a HUGE difference in pricing, Kroger will see my smiling face every Saturday morning for many years to come.

I've been working on creating my own "brand" and the title of my debut picture book has made it somewhat easier. To me, THE STORY CATCHER is who I am...a writer trying to catch the right words to tell an engaging story. My new business cards show a person running around with a butterfly net trying to snag flying words. My Facebook fan page is titled The STORY Catcher. I even have magnets on my car doors announcing I'm the STORY CATCHER and directing them back to this blog. I've had those magnets on my car for about a month now and I'm starting to see some interest. People are pausing to read my sign and last week a server at the Burger King drive thru stopped and asked me about my sign. She told me her granddaughter loves to read and I told her about my book. Maybe she will pick up a copy of THE STORY CATCHER when it comes out on January 20th and maybe she won't, but I know if she sees my "brand" enough, she might decide it's a brand worth being loyal to in the future...

Friday, September 19, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Step By Step







It's mornings like today that remind me of walking to school when I was a kid. We only had one car in the family and my mother didn't drive...not because she didn't want to but I think because that was one more responsibility she didn't want to add to her overloaded plate. 

So I walked. Everywhere.

I'd like to say the walk to school was at least a mile from my house and maybe it just seemed that long to a little kid toting a backpack full of books, but every morning I would head out and make my way through town to the elementary school. I never minded the walk because I LOVED to learn and it got me away from the house for a few hours. Despite the fact that I was incredibly shy, had no friends, and was constantly teased because I always managed to become the "teacher's pet", school was a sanctuary for me in those days.

Gueydan is an extremely tiny town, population around 1500...numbers which might actually include residents of the local cemetery...and nothing exciting ever seem to happen there. Except during the fifth grade when my elementary school burned to the ground.

I remember walking with my sister to school that day. Everything seemed normal until we got a couple of blocks away and we heard the siren from the firetruck. We were both shocked to finally get to the school to see smoke billowing out of the building as they tried to put the fire out that actually began in MY homeroom. The entire building was destroyed and we spent the rest of the school year attending classes on half days. Our high school building was located next door so I ended up going to school from 7:30 until around 11:30 each day and then Janet, being in ninth grade at the time, would have her classes from 11:30 until 3:30. It was a challenging school year until the new elementary building was completed but somehow we made it work.

Walking home the same way every day could become boring so I liked to change it up whenever I could. Mother expected me to get home quickly. If I took the longer route that cut through the park so I could sneak in a couple of twirls on the merry go round, I had to make up for it by running the rest of the way home.  Sometimes I would even start running straight from school to the park because that was where the library was and if I was lucky, I could sneak in and visit the books.

Even then books held a spell over me. I would dash in just to say hi to the librarian and maybe take a quick look at the newest arrivals so I could start dreaming of which book would I check out next. Then it was a mad dash to get home before Mother suspected I hadn't walked straight home like she expected me to.

I wonder what the kids I went to school with would think about me now that I am a children's book author? So many steps taken from those old school days to where I am now and yet I find all those steps STILL lead me to the one thing I've always loved more than anything else...books.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Jennifer Hamburg








Title: A Moose That Says Moooooooooo!
Author: Jennifer Hamburg
Illustrator: Sue Truesdell
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis: Everything starts out fine in the imagination of one young girl when she decides to create her own zoo with a moose that can moo and book reading sharks. But soon things get out of hand as everything from zoo pillow fights to an all-duck jazz band creates havoc in the afternoon. How will she corral those crazy critters and restore order once more to her back yard?

Why you should read it: The illustrations of this book kind of remind me of Shel Silverstein's lovely drawings in THE GIVING TREE. With an ox as a short-order cook and skunks jumping rope, who WOULDN'T want to check out this zany zoo? I enjoyed turning the pages to discover the next what-if in this adorable tale of one girl's imagination gone wild on a lazy summer afternoon.

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