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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book Review: Alex and Eliza

I am not a fan of romance novels, except certain romance novels. I am also one of the few who hasn't been obsessed with Hamilton, the musical.

Still, "Alex & Eliza," by Melissa de la Cruz, is a perfect love story for the YA audience who love the musical "Hamilton," and those who don't. I haven't seen "Hamilton," and don't know much about it, but I still enjoyed the story of how Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton fell in love and worked around the arrangements of marriage for power and wealth to marry for love.  It was nail biting in the end, and the plot was not predictable. True love prevails, so you have to like that! Especially since that doesn't seem the case for Eliza's sisters.

This made me want to see "Hamilton!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gangbanger trailer

Finally! A book trailer for my latest book, "Gangbanger." This 45 second video is like a summary of the book. A picture really is worth 1000 words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Famous Last Words - Some Thoughts on Writing Endings

Endings are difficult for me, especially when writing them. Sometimes I know what the ending is, or should look like, before I start writing the story. That does not make it any easier. As I approach the end of a novel I am working on, I'll want to rush to the finish line, or I'll worry about loose threads, or I'll wonder if the ending is satisfying enough.

There is reason to worry. A bad ending can ruin a book for a reader. An unsatisfying ending can leave them hanging. The goal is to bring a story full circle and to a satisfying conclusion. To leave the reader closing the book with a feeling of being swept away.

No pressure there.

A good ending feels like a natural conclusion to the story. Having someone or something new appear and save the day will not work. The characters have to drive the ending, with tools that were there earlier in the story. Author Raymond Chandler said, “The solution, once revealed, must seem to have been inevitable.”

A good ending shows growth in the character. Along with the external conflicts, a good story shows depth by taking its characters on an emotional path as well. This inner conflict is resolved by showing a change in the character, and gives the story heart.

It is satisfying to see a story come full circle. In some way, the end should resemble the beginning.

Make sure all subplots are resolved. Leaving loose ends is sloppy storytelling.

Don't philosophize to the reader. This is a common complaint about the ending of Dan Brown's novel, "The Lost Symbol" where the character spends too much time thinking about his experience while watching the sun rise. As James V. Smith Jr. explains in Writer's Digest, "Keep description to a minimum, but maximize action and conflict. You have placed all your charges. Now, light the fuse and run."