Saturday, November 15, 2014

Salt and Katie are the fictional representatives of two of the first cats to come to North America, and thus the ancestors of the domestic cats living here today. Their story is told in Salt and the Sea Venture. If you believe your cat is a descendant, e-mail me a picture, and a bio of your cat to I'd like to feature them on the blog, and may even immortalize them in a future book.

Really how could you find a more perfect Descendant?

Cece is an all-white cat, just like Salt from Salt and the Sea Venture.

This beautiful girl is just over 3 years old. Isn't she lovely. Look at those eyes and that darling pink nose.  She is currently available for adoption at Wayside Waifs. If you're in the area, take a look at this snow white beauty, or any of the other cats at the shelter. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dear Writer,… Love, Your Bookseller
Friday, November 14, 2014
5:54 AM
In addition to being a writer myself, I am also a children's bookseller. I can't even explain how wonderful it is to help a parent or child find just the right book. I find the opportunity to consult with customers about something so dear to my heart to be terrifically fulfilling. I've also learned a great deal about being a writer from working in a bookstore. I hope to share some of those insights.


Here's a typical scenario in the bookstore. A kid picks up a book and without glancing at the cover, the blurb or jacket-flap, and definitely not opening the book; they flip the book horizontal. What are they looking for? They are trying to determine how thick the book is. 90% of those making such an evaluation are looking for a "thin" book. I kid you not, this is how they decide if it's something they want to read.

They pay no attention to the size of the print, the amount of dialogue/white-space, illustrations, etc. They simply want to know how thick it is. If it's too thick they won't even consider it. Now this isn't all kids by any means and there are the 10% who do the same, and say the book is too thin. I just think it's amusing that many kids use this as their benchmark for book selection.

As a writer though, it make me realize that every word and every page counts. If there's anything unnecessary in the book that will make it "fatter," it could cost me a sale. To me the sweet spot for Middle Grade is 120-240 pages. Any less, and a teacher might not accept the book for required reading. Any more and the thickness is going to turn away potential readers.

An author who does a great job at this is Lauren Tarshis with her "I Survived" series. These books are wildly popular with Middle Grade readers. Both boys and girls are equally interested, but it's an awesome series for reluctant boy readers. The question of whether or not a person could survive a hostile situation is transcendent. That's why we're obsessed with shows from Survivor to Doomsday Preppers, and why disaster films, and post-apocalyptic fiction are so popular.

But what Lauren has done is to tell her stories in a riveting and concise manner. They are short and quick to read, yet powerful and resonant. Never mind the bonus that the reader learns something about an important part of history. Kids read one, and then come back for more a few days later.

However, I'm convinced that if she had yimmer-yammered on for twice as many pages, they would not attract kids attention nearly as well. They wouldn't pass the "thickness test." Before a kid can get hooked, they have to give the book a try.

Writers- how do you think your books would do in the "thickness test?" Booksellers/Librarians/Teachers- Have you had any similar experience? 

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Long Has it Been?

I know, it's been an insanely long time since I posted to this blog. I'm almost embarrassed, no I take that back, I AM TOO EMBARRASSED to post again, but I'm forced.

Wordpress, the single most frustrating platform ever devised has forced me to tuck my tail between my legs and return to my old blog.

I loved this blog, and all my blogger buddies, but after taking a new job, I just couldn't keep it up. Lucky for me, I got laid-off from that job, so now I have time to focus on what really matters, writing! Yeah.

Can't wait to reconnect, and I apologize for my long absence. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What I Love About You Wednesday

Suzi McGowen

Suzi's a great gal who always has fun things to say on her blog. She's written some great books, including one called A Troll's Wife's Tale. How cool is that. 

Suzi has a great blog that mixes fun writing stuff, with personal tidbits that make her feel like a friend.

Thanks for checking out Suzi's blog.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Zoosday Tuesday

Arctic Fox

Powder puff anyone?
The arctic fox is another animal that is beautifully adapted to life in the cold, cold north. The bushy tail, shorter nose, and small ears. Their fur is thick with a dense double coat, and they even have fur on the bottom of their feet. All these adaptations help them survive in the harsh cold of the Arctic Circle.

The blue represents the area where the Artic Fox lives
These little puff balls are opportunistic feeders. They eat small mammals such as lemmings, arctic hares, ringed seal pups, and eggs. They also eat any scraps left behind by polar bears.

My summer coat
During the summer, they grow a brown or grey coat, which they trade for a solid white coat when thick snow covers their territory.

Changing my coat

Arctic foxes form monogomous pairs that share the duties of raising and feeding the young. Litter size is typically from five -eight, but can be up to twenty-five (what! that's just crazy.) The kits stay with the parents for up to two years and may stay with the parents to help raise their younger siblings. When it's time to move on, the females head out while the males stay with the family. The kits are born brown, grey, or blue/grey, and turn white as winter approaches.

Babies at the Den
Arctic Foxes are doing well so far in the wild. They use all of their resources to survive. They are successful hunters, good parents, and ideally adapted to make their way in the harshest environment on earth. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What I Love About You Wednesday

Meet Caz Williams

I was so glad to see Caz Williams back on the blogosphere when I returned from hiatus. She's from, check it out, Perth, Austrailia. Meeting bloggers from places like Perth just makes me want to pee my pants with excitement. (Not that you folks from the US don't make me want to tinkle, but seriously, I never thought I'd know someone from Perth, Austrailia.

And Caz is a writer who's in a similar place to me, so I can really relate to her. Last summer she visited the US and spent part of her time at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.) She shared so much of what she learned from that experience with her followers.

Check out Caz's blog to see everything she has to say about that wonderful and educational experience.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Zoosday Tuesday

Ringed Seal

I'm coming back to Zoosday Tuesday by picking up where we left off in February, in the Artic.

Isn't I cute?

These chubby little guys are the smallest of the seal species.  They get their name from the lighter colored rings on the dark grey or black background.

They are the main food source of polar bears, but before you feel too sorry for them,  keep in mind that they are super fast and sleek under the water. They stay close to the water at all times, by either floating along on ice floes, or digging holes in the ice that they can slip into when a big white bear comes prowling around.

During the winter, when the ice freezes solid the ringed seals are able to dig out holes deep under ice that other seals can't reach. They use their sharp front claws to dig 5-8 holes that they pop out of every 15-30 minutes when they need air.  They blow bubbles out of the hole before surfacing in the hopes that a waiting polar bear will give away his position.

Hope there aren't any polar bears around

They pack on the pounds by eating up to 62 different types of fish and shrimp.

whoops I'm not a ringed seal, but I do have blubber
Anyway they need the extra weight they pack on to get through the molting season. Every May and June ringed seals shed all of their fur and skin so they can grow a new coat.  During this time, they don't eat because they can't go in the water without thier protective coats.  Pupping females add two months to their fast because they don't eat or swim while their nursing their pups.  But pups are weaned after only two months and after four months they are able to fend for themselves.

Ringed seal pups are born with a white coat
They molt this first coat during their first months of life to be replaced by the grey rings.

I is molting, yuck!

These speedy little seals spend most of their life in the water; swimming, fishing, and breeding. They manage to evade their arch enemy the polar bears more times than not.