About Me

My photo
I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Evil Good

My son loves super-heroes. He doesn't know that secretly he is my own small super-hero.

But before I get into the reasons for that first let me tell you about the deep philosophical discussion we had about super-heroes and why these discussions with my kids make me feel very blessed as a writer.

My son came out into the living room dressed in his Spiderman costume, with his Darth Vader cape, holding his Thundercats dagger.

"What are you supposed to be?" I asked. "You're wearing a good guy suit with a bad guy cape."

"That's because I'm Evil Good," he told me.

"Evil Good?" I said confused.

"Yes. Sometimes the good guys have to do something bad to do something good," he explained while he brandished his dagger.


"Yes," he said.

"Like how?" I asked. "Maybe like when they have to break into a building to stop a bad guy from hurting someone?"

"Yep. Sometimes the good guys even have to kill someone. They have to do something evil to accomplish something good."

Then he asked me to take his picture.

Now if you are like me this simple statement that summed up the plight of all heroes at some point in their journey flooded my mind with all kinds of thoughts until I thought my brain might short circuit. I thought of comic book heroes, real-life heroes, and the various ideas all people have about good versus evil and our perception of what is evil and what is good.

This could launch me down a path to all kinds of scenarios and controversy. But then I thought of what a super-hero often faces and how the true hero always overcomes evil whether it is real or perceived. And I realized that my son fits most if not all the qualifications of a super-hero. That awesome thought gave me goose bumps.

The average super-hero is often adopted in some way after losing his or her parents at a very young age. My son was given up for adoption by his birth mother at the tender age of 3 1/2 years. When we got his referral from our adoption agency he'd only been in the orphanage for a few months. A year later when our adoption had been approved I worried that he might be shy or even frightened by these two strange adults who didn't look like him or even speak his language. My little boy saw me and ran to me with open arms the first time we met. He bravely got on a plane a few short days later and crossed an ocean to his new home even though I know he was terrified. Once we were on the plane and he was given a plate full of food shortly after we were seated he put his little hands to his cheeks and said, "Oh my God!" He truly thought he was a king on that airplane.

The average super-hero is on a journey of self and must overcome challenges of strength and heart to become someone who can save others. My son was 4 1/2 with the bone development of a 2 1/2 year-old child when we brought him home. His coordination was also a bit rough. Now he is the average size of an 8 year-old and he plays basketball and runs track. He is strong both physically and emotionally.

Despite the challenges he's had to face he goes through life with a joyful heart. As his mom I am doubly blessed to know him and have him as my son. Whenever I get down or think life is tough as a person or as a writer I'm humbled by my complaints whenever I look at him. Life could always be worse. If we don't dwell on the hardships or use them instead to learn from we can overcome so much. My own little super-hero had something evil happen to him. Circumstances beyond his or his birth family's control separated them and left him an orphan. But out of the evil of circumstance came so much good. It gives me faith to believe we can all be heroes if we choose to be.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Holes, Vermeer, and Alvin...

So, I've almost finished the three of the Kidlit books I checked out from the library, Holes by Louis Sachar, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, and Alvin Ho Allergic to School, Girls, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look.

I've enjoyed two of the three and have included a short paragraph of each one below.

Holes by Louis Sachar is a novel that I wasn't sure I'd like. A boy gets in trouble for being a juvenile deliquent, even though he isn't one, and is sent off to a reform camp to dig holes. Not a premise for a story I'd usually choose to read for pleasure. Holes was both a fun read and great example of a book to add to your library if you want to write fiction for this age group. Stanley Yelnats is embroiled in this hot mess because his family is cursed. Weaving the past and present together in a seamless manner the novel unfolds to reveal that friendship is the one element that has brought most of the characters together. A friendship betrayed causes the curse Stanley labors under, and bravery and friendship in the worst of circumstances is what eventually brings redemption for those who deserve it. Mixed into the plot are other betrayals as well as prejudice, intolerance, and lost love. Add in an engrossing mystery and a character that grows on you more and more as you read and you have a great book for juvenile readers and those of us who never really grew up.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, sadly was a disappointment. It was one of the three I was actually looking forward to reading. A mystery involving stolen art from a well known artist who still remains an enigma to most people today. It sounded like a great read. Unfortunately, though I liked the main characters, this book didn't capture my attention or hold my interest all the way through. I slogged through half the middle and forced myself to make it to the end. The premise is great but the writing just didn't deliver for me. There are some great descriptive phrases but it wasn't enough for me to say I really liked the story. The author tries to include far too many seemingly unrelated things into the story and the kids seem to derive clues more from divination using puzzle piece letters than actual investigating. Their hearts are in the right place but their methods to solving the case are just too random. At the end the author tries to explain how everything is tied together, but it was still a bit far-fetched and confusing to me. If I was going to give this a star rating I'd have to give it a 2.5/5.0 stars. Perhaps I'm just not well versed enough in art history to appreciate the storyline, but I don't think that many middle graders would be either.

Alvin Ho is a fun and hilarious character that I've loved from the first page. I haven't read the entire book yet because I'm reading it with my young son. The two of us have laughed so much and can relate so well to this character that I'd have to say even though the main character is a little boy a girl would enjoy this book too. Alvin is frightened of almost everything and even though he's unable to talk at school he still manages to get himself into some real fixes. The writing is superb. It is descriptive and virtually undetectable to the reader you get so lost in the character's voice and story. Something all children's writers, or writers in general strive for. Lenore Look is a master of the writing craft. If you want a fun book to read with a young middle grader this is one I would highly recommend. Even my junior high age daughter got into the story and had to read the rest of the book on her own. 

Hope these reviews are helpful to those of you who want to read or add books to your personal library and give you a good reference on how to write for kids and really stand out.
P.S. Even though I did not like Chasing Vermeer does not mean you won't.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Looking Into More Kidlit

So I'm going through the list of books that were mentioned in the writer's guide I reviewed for About.com.
I decided it would be a great learning tool to improve my writing for the Kidlit market. Unfortunately, my library doesn't have all of the books in the list for either that writing guide or the one I've read by Cheryl Klein. But they do have some of them and I'm hoping a few more of them will be in the KY Unbound e-library. Once I'm done with reading the ones I'm able to find I'll post a review here on my blog of them. They will be short, but hopefully helpful to those of you interested in reading some quality juvenile fiction to help with your own writing endeavors. Here is the list of books I've checked out so far:

Holes by Louis Sachar
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
Alvin Ho Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

I've only managed to finish Holes so far. I'll wait until I've finished the other two before posting my short reviews. I realize these aren't newly released books, but if you are like me you've probably heard about these but never gotten around to actually checking them out. I do read a lot of middle-grade and young adult fiction that I find that interests me. Sometimes they are even award winners. But usually I stick with the newer releases. I still will continue to do that, but some books are just too good to lose their value as far as story and craft with time. And I'm hoping I find that to be the case with many of these books I'm going to read off my list. If you haven't read any of these books, or have and want to add comments once I've reviewed them feel free. Happy reading!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer Adventures

What are some of your best memories of summer? Share some of your best summer memories or summer adventures you anticipate having this summer. :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

This week's story start...

Robbie sat down on his bedroom floor to play and felt a jack stab him in the butt. Yow! He realized looking around he couldn't even see his floor. How had his room gotten to be such a mess? He didn't remember doing this himself. It must have been the result of...

Writing advice from a dog

Writing requires lots of time doing the following...



Thinking and formulating 

Some role playing to get into your character's head

And if none of that helps sometimes you just need to take a nap in the hopes the idea will come in your dreams....
The pictures above were provided courtesy of my daughter Abby. The subject of these pictures is Cotton the dog.