Friday, September 23, 2016

5 Year Anniversary

I'm thrilled to be able to add this badge to my website and blog! If you write for children or illustrate for kid's books, you should certainly know about this great organization: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Conferences and workshops that I have attended through the regional branches of SCBWI have been of great value and helped me hone my craft and fine-tune manuscripts in progress--not to mention the fantastic people you will meet. My membership renewal this month starts me on my 6th year of membership. Check them out. Join. Go to conferences. I highly recommend it.

Though I do more than write children's books, it is certainly the focus of most of my days right now. Because Max's Wild Night has been so popular, I moved up the release date of Dottie's Daring Day and shifted it ahead of the next cat book. My current plan is to have Dottie's book ready by February 1. When you consider what needs to happen before a book is ready for publication, that is just a hiccup away. My husband has already started his job as my first reader, and other beta readers will be on the task shortly.

Chapter One is printed out and being reviewed!

The cover designer and proofreader have me on their schedules, so it is forward full speed. October gets crazy with the Ozark Creative Writer's Conference and our long days at the War Eagle Craft Fair, but you can expect to see the cover for Dottie's Daring Day in late-October. Yay!

Now it's back to revising. As any writer will tell you, that part of the process doesn't end until you just run out of time. But I will leave you with this great new review for Why Kimba Saved The World. Reviews like this are what keep me going.

5.0 out of 5 stars Very clever!September 18, 2016
This review is from: Why Kimba Saved the World (Paperback)
I've never seen this style of writing before. Very clever. The narrator is inside the cat, Kimba's, head. The narrator never goes inside the humans' heads, or any of the other cat or dog characters. Very well-written. I am a grammar/proofreading nerd, and I was so pleased to not find one single error in this book! That is so rare these days. What a breath of fresh air reading something so well-written.

An easy read, and I won't post any spoilers except to say I will never trust my cats again when they climb up between me and my computer! ha ha ha

Loved this book. The descriptions of every character, the scenes, the rooms in the house, the outdoor scenes are excellent.

Kudos to Meg Welch Dendler. I can't wait to read her other books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Self-Publishing Journey

At the fantastic Ozark Writers League conference on Saturday, I was part of a panel of self-publishing authors. We shared some basic information on how we go about the process and what we have learned. I actually wrote an entire blog series on my own self-publishing experiences over the winter of 2015. It is still posted at my old blog at my website, but for ease of reading and following (and as promised), I will post the whole thing here with weekly links so those interested can read about what I have learned so far as a self-publishing author.

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Write the best book possible

Week 3: Set your goals and expectations

Week 4: Publish your book like a professional

Week 5: Where to publish

Week 6: Live events & blog tours

Week 7: Book release and production scheduling

Week 8: Freebies, discount promotions, and KDP

Week 9: Wrap up to the series (bookstores, awards, and series writing)

The journey has certainly continued since then, but I think this series is still inclusive of the lessons I've learned as a whole.

I'd love to hear your thoughts or additions in the comments section so everyone can benefit from what you have learned as well.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Turpentine Creek's New Vet Hostpital

I had the chance to put on my docent hat yesterday to support the ribbon cutting at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge's new vet clinic. They have worked so hard and so diligently to make this a reality, and I was honored to be a part of it. Most months, it is enough for them to bring in donations that cover operating costs and food beyond what is donated by Tyson and Walmart.

Not having to transport a sick, injured, or aging animal many miles to the vet is so important. Those trips were not only hard on the animals but dangerous as well. What if there was a car accident and a tiger got lose? It almost happened once. The tens of thousands of dollars required to make this on-site clinic a reality was truly a monumental task. What it will mean for the care of the more than 100 big cats and bears in TCWR's care is even bigger.

Normally, the clinic would not be part of a tour at the facility, but yesterday it was open to the public. I was thrilled to see Chamber of Commerce members from Fayetteville, Rogers, Eureka Springs, Holiday Island, and many others that I didn't catch the names of coming with giant scissors to celebrate with us. I'd also like to give a shout-out to the Ghost Tours of and for volunteering to provide shuttle service down to the clinic from the parking lot. They kept everything flowing smoothly. I'd like to think my flight attendant inspired directions helped too. This way, please.

If you want to watch the ribbon cutting video and see a tour of the facility, just click on this link. You will need to be signed in to Facebook to see it. I didn't get to witness that part. I was still up in the parking lot making sure everyone found the shuttles and made it down there in time. Being a volunteer often means you miss the actual big moment, but that's okay. I was just grateful to see how many people showed up--I'm guessing around 200.

Here's my own personal photos of the event:

I overheard that this table can support a horse standing on it.
You don't really think about how heavy a tiger is, but that's a huge concern when they need veterinary care.

You know that scale you put your dog on at the vet? This is the giant version.

A very sweaty me with the amazing Emily, the curator, who has been with TCWR from almost the start.
She is the best friend an animal could have, and she's pretty cool with people too. 

Enclosures for receiving new animals or temporarily caring for those who need it. A wall in the middle slides back and forth the adjust the size or bring an animal up to the wall for shots and such with out having to sedate them.

Proof cats really do have bones, even though they move like this is impossible.

Thank you!!!!

A photo they have on the wall from an earlier surgery.
You really don't want that anesthesia to wear off!
I look forward to hearing the stories about how having the clinic on site helped with a particular situation. I'm sure the vet is grateful to have the right equipment and the ability to handle whatever comes up without the drama of transporting an animal to him many miles away.

Of course, once the tour was over, I had to go hang out at the refuge a bit. Health issues have kept me from my docent duties this summer, and I have really missed it. I hope I can get back to business shortly.

Selfie with BamBam. He's a character in Miss Fatty Cat's Revenge.
Elvis and Dillon, just snoozing the day away.
Bobcats, in case you can't tell.
I even got myself a little treat at the gift shop. I mean, how adorable is he?
I shall name him Thor after my lion buddy for many docent sessions.

Next up is the Ozark Writers League quarterly conference on Saturday the 20th in Branson. I'll be part of a panel on self-publishing at the end of the day. Come on by and say howdy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Life As An Editor

Working as an editor is normally a very quiet part of what I do each day. I rarely talk publicly about what I'm working on. Part of that is respecting the author's privacy, and another part is just how editing is as a profession. It's the behind-the-scenes job that makes a huge difference but stays under the radar of readers.

But last night I got this gift from Pen-L Publishing, and I just have to crow a little bit.

Duke and Kim presented me with a copy of each published book I have worked on with them since December of 2014--as an editor or a proofreader. There are six still in the process. Some of these authors have become friends through the magic of Facebook. Some have no idea who I am except as a correction or note on their manuscript.

Publishing a book is a LONG process, and I'm not including the original writing. Just the publication. It takes about six months for the editing and proofreading and formatting and cover design, even with an independent publisher. And the manuscript may well have been signed for publication six months or more before that and been waiting its turn in line. Then there's the process of getting reviews from places that demand advance copies. Publication may be delayed another six months while the author waits for places like Kirkus to review the book.

What I think authors don't really understand is how invested those of us behind the scenes become in their books during that time. I'm not the creator, the mama, but I certainly feel like a very devoted auntie. When a book is released into the world, it is like graduation day. It's hard to put into words, but I freely admit to getting a bit giddy when I hold a copy of a book I helped produce. I've even hugged a few of them. I know. I'm weird. But there it is.

It's not the same rush as holding that first copy of a book I've written myself, but it comes close. A story that I have spent hours and hours and hours reading and shepherding along is finally out in the world. Even if it's not my favorite genre, there is still a delightful rush and a sense of pride in knowing that an author--the vast majority of whom I've never met--is celebrating the publication of his or her book baby. I know how that feels, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

A very exciting part of the job that I never anticipated is that many of these authors are writing a series, and I have the chance to work with them on developing that on-going connection with their readers. A few have also trusted me with personal projects or manuscripts in the works. I know what it means to trust someone with my own books, and I'm honored.

I remember early on in my writing career having a discussion with my editor at a magazine about a particular article. I joked that those folks who win Pulitzer Prizes must have moved beyond needing an editor. She said that they probably won because they have an excellent editor. Touché.

And that's all for now because several manuscripts are waiting for my attention and love. Not to mention my own WIPs. Let's see how many book babies we can bring into the world in 2016!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Editing and Beta Reading

The dust has settled on "Leia's" high school graduation, and a summer agenda is now in full play. For her, that mean a few weeks of break before moving in to her dorm at the University of Arkansas. For me, it means the guest house business hits its stride for the season.

When "Leia" goes in for orientation in mid-June, I'm looking forward to beginning some on-foot research for Dottie's Daring Day, which will take place on campus in Fayetteville. I already have a pretty good sense of how the story will evolve, but I want to weave in actual locations on campus and need to be sure travel times are logical. I love the ideas I have gotten from meeting with students and asking them what a dog could get into on a day of freedom. A garbage can of some sort apparently must be in the mix somewhere. Specifics never fail to come to light when my feet hit the pavement and I can get a "dog's eye" view of the city. Maybe Dottie herself can join me to show me the best stuff.
If we can get her off the sofa, that is.

Of course this summer is a bit different since we have our home and the guest house up for sale. That puts a big spin on the rest of my normal activities. I won't be doing any speaking engagements all summer long and have kept those in the fall to a very few.

You can, however, join me on Saturday for my final talk of the season to the Springfield Writers' Guild in Missouri. Here's the Facebook link to the event. I have met many of their members here and there at other events and conferences, so I'm excited to be spending the day with them.

Another change in our summer schedule is that I am taking on more freelance work as a beta reader, proofreader, and editor. This isn't really new. I contract with Pen-L Publishing and have supported self-published authors in the past. But as we work our way out of the guest house business, I will be devoting more time to helping other authors prepare their books for either self-publication or presentation to publishing houses. My time on this front is limited right now, and I'm grateful to the authors who have already been in touch with me about working on their projects. You can find out more at the page devoted to this at my website. I am also exceptionally grateful to the authors who have provided references for me based on our work together. One even referred a friend to me. There is no greater compliment!

Summer time rarely leads to much worth blogging about. We pretty much put our heads down and get to work. I doubt you want to hear about loads of laundry and cleaning bathrooms -- until I write the book about all of the craziness, that is. Hopefully, this is the last summer I have to worry about those things. The time to move on has come, and we are excited to see who will take over this magnificent property in the Ozark mountains.

This could be your backyard.

I hope each of you has a blessed and love-filled summer!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Newsletter & Updates

Follow this link to my Spring Newsletter!

And if you haven't already gotten your copy of Book 4, "Slinky Steps Out," you can pick one up at or from my author page for autographed copies. You can even get a matching toy!

Have a fantastic weekend and a beautiful start to your April!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reflections on a Big Plan

In 2010, I sat in a booth at Dave and Busters in Houston, Texas, while "Mindy" and a handful of friends played games and enjoyed being teenagers. Ignoring whatever sporting events were on the multiple TVs in the bar, I took pen to white legal pad and said "what if." I had a cute little early reader book about my cat Kimba, but it seemed like it could be more and bigger and better. I'd even gotten that advice from an agent at a SCBWI conference. But what would that story look like?

After several hours of making notes and letting ideas flow, I wrote down the names of what I could now see was a series of books: Why Kimba Saved The World, Vacation Hiro, Miss Fatty Cat's Revenge, and Slinky Steps Out. I wasn't even sure what Miss Fatty Cat would want revenge for, but the title was too fun to not write down.

Back in 2010, I couldn't have begun to imagine living in Arkansas, my work with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge that gave shape to Miss Fatty Cat's book, and all the events that would lead up to self-publishing the Cats in the Mirror series. Life is a funny thing.

Today, the paperback editing proof of the final book in that pre-planned series arrived.

It was hard to imagine Slinky going off to college with "Mindy" back when I started this writing journey. Now it has been a fact of life for a couple of years. It makes me step back and take note that the goal I set six years ago has come to total fruition, with even another book about Max in there as well, not to mention At the Corner of Magnetic and Main, which was nowhere on my radar back then.

It makes me wonder where I will be six years from now. Already, big changes for our lives are on the horizon--not the least of which involves "Leia" heading off to college in August and leaving us with the first stages of being empty-nesters.

I often see the joke meme passed around that says, when life hits us with big stuff we don't expect, writers should know enough to yell "plot twist" and go with it. Control freak that I am, I am really going to try, though it may come off more as mumbling while I bang my head on my desk.

My hope is that there will be Dottie's Daring Day on the horizon, featuring our granddoggie Dottie and some parallel adventures to Max's book.

Dottie is certainly deserving of her own adventure story.
There really should be a Kimba's Christmas story because every series needs a good Christmas book, but I haven't got the faintest idea what that would be about.

Kimba reminds me daily that it is still HER series.
Cheetara is quite confident that she deserves her own book, sooner rather than later. Cats are so demanding.

Chee is a character and will be easy to write about if I sit down and try.
It would be really great to take some time to put together learning guides to go with each cat book and get more involved with home schooling groups. I'm giving lots of writer talks this year, and I'd love to keep that going and kick it up a notch. But there are plot twists ahead that I am as clueless about as any main character could be. I'm just taking each day and the list that goes with it and trying not to freak out too much.

In the meantime, you will be hearing more than you could ever want to about Slinky Steps Out come April 1st. Release date is on schedule, and it's nearly time to party about Book 4 in the Cats in the Mirror series. Whoot Whoot!!