Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Review: Every Falling Star

This is not a fiction story, and it is not an easy read. This is an autobiographical tale about a young boy forced to beg, borrow and steal in deplorable conditions one could not imagine in North Korea. Sungju is not ashamed to show how naive he was at the start, and things get worse for him rather quickly.  The writing is honest and raw. At times, I felt hopeless reading it. The days Sungju describes seem as if the despair would never end. It is worth sticking through, and you will be left with knowing a little something about a corner of the world kept hidden from outsider's eyes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

It wasn't hard to find the appeal of "The Girl Who Drank the Moon," by Kelly Barnhill, the book that earned the 2017 Newbery Medal. It has a tiny dragon that will fit in a little girl's pocket, a loving swamp monster, and magic in the moonlight.

As an infant, Luna was left in the forest as a sacrifice, and saved by the magical and kind Xan, who saved all the babies abandoned in the forest. She fed them starlight as she delivered them to a loving family who raised them. But with Luna, the trip was longer than usual, and Xan fed her from the moon. This gave Luna magic, which can be a dangerous thing for a child to have.

Her magic is hidden away. In fact, Luna doesn't even know what magic is until her 13th birthday approaches. At the same time, the severely scarred Antain is determined to stop the sacrifices of the youngest child in the village and kill the witch he believes is demanding them.

A colorful collection of characters make the reader believe in magic, if only for a little while, and may inspire some origami.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New Release: A Spooky Story for Halloween

When my publisher suggested I try to write a spooky story for an anthology, it wasn't difficult to convince me. My love of literature started with now classic horror from Stephen King and John Saul. Halloween is my second favorite holiday (behind Valentine's day).

My short story, "You're Not Welcome Here" is written from an unusual perspective, because sometimes the dead have tales to tell. It appears in Volume 5 of the anthology "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," released today in honor of Halloween.

Nine other spooky tales, along with a standalone novella also appear as part of this anthology, giving you over 300 pages that will give you the creeps.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Book Review: El Deafo

The graphic novel, "El Deafo" is an autobiographical story about author Cece Bell's experience with going deaf at age 4. Written from the perspective of Cece, we get an inside peek at how it felt for this young girl to confront her loss of hearing, the strategies presented to her, and friendships. She adopts a secret identity as El Deafo when she decides the contraption she must use to hear her teacher is a super power. She often calls on her inner superhero to navigate difficult social situations.

The story is sweet, and relatable for anyone who is or has been a kid dealing with embarrassment, fitting in, and a first crush. The hearing loss details are a bonus.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: Every Soul A Star

I read "Every Soul a Star," by Wendy Mass, on a road trip to see the Great American Eclipse with my family. It was a last blast for my oldest, who was leaving for college in a handful of days. He wasn't too happy about this trip, and not seeing his friends to say goodbye. His emotions were perfectly matched in this book, which is about three children somewhere between ages 12 and 14 and their younger siblings. All of them have life changing things going on and meet at the Moon Shadow campground during a total solar eclipse.

I normally do not like books with multiple point of views, but this one was handled well. I felt equally invested in each of them. I only wish their stories went deeper and longer, but since it is MG fiction, I can't expect too much.

The descriptions of the total solar eclipse were pretty great, coming from a person who witnessed one of these while reading this book. Mass is great with description, and character development, and making interesting stories. I really like her work.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review: The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs

I admit that I picked up this book because it is about a cat, but "The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs" by Cylin Busby turned out to be some real swashbuckling fun.

Jacob Tibbs is the runt of the litter who turns out to be a heroic ship's cat. This is not a cat to stand by on his white paws. He gets to work to prove himself a worthy mate like his mother, winning over the affections of his fellow sailors on the high seas in 1847. Life at sea is not easy for any of them as the story takes one surprising turn after another, facing foes of man and nature. This page turning adventure is great for animal lovers and those who like to read about times gone by, ages 8-10.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Where Do I Go From Here? Notes on Querying Your Manuscript.

I recently went to a workshop for writers ready to take their work to market. It was for those who wanted to get their manuscripts in front of agents and editors. I heard the question, "Where do I find them?" (Meaning agents and editors.)

I decided to share what I learned in the workshop, along with my favorite places for finding agents and editors who are taking unsolicited manuscripts. It goes without saying that joining organizations like SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) provides an abundance of resources on this topic, and attending conferences puts you in direct contact with the movers and shakers in the industry. Many of the success stories I hear among my fellow writers, their "big" breaks, happened as the result of a conference.

But you know you can't rest on your laurels and just submit to that one agent you made a contact with and hope all your dreams will come true. These days, it takes many, many queries, with no hope for a response unless they are interested.

So, where do you go? Of course, SCBWI has resources for market on the website, as do may other writing organizations.

I like I do the free version, which gives me plenty of information. With a few clicks, you can check out an agent or editor, if they take unsolicited manuscripts, the genres they represent, links to other information about them, and add them to your list (interested, queried, even if they replied).

There is also I have used this in the past, but abandoned it for querytracker. It might be useful for others who don't think like me, which is most of the population.

Literary rambles ( was suggested by the moderator of this group. I know of this blog well. I refer to it frequently. She does interviews with agents and editors and often finds out what kind of manuscript this agent/editor is looking for.

Manuscript Wish List ( is another terrific source for finding agents and editors looking for the kind of story you have written. You can also find posts on this on Twitter at #mswl

Lastly, if you are serious about writing and getting published, you need to be on Twitter. There are reoccurring pitch parties during which agents and editors watch for 140 character story pitches tagged with the hashtag and the genre. It they favorite your pitch, it indicates that they are interested in seeing more. There are others, but the pitch contest I know best is #pitmad by Brenda Drake ( The #pitmad parties happen four times a year, and only last a day, so have our pitch ready and don't forget to tag it (#pitmad #YA) so agents and editors can find it.

So those are some places to search for the perfect agent or editor who is looking for a manuscript like yours. Make sure you do your homework and the manuscript is polished and ready for submission. You never get a second chance at a first impression.