Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Word from Cleo

Since Lucky started this telling our stories, I’ll add mine. My girl, Rebel, calls me Cleopatra, Cleo for short, which was the name of Egyptian queens and princesses in Egypt, way back, long before I was born. What can I say? The name fits. I am beautiful and intelligent.

A word about my girl here. I’ve been her owner since I was a kitten. She found me in an old barn somewhere and brought me home with her. Even though she’s a human, she’s very nice, feeds me my favorite food–tuna fish. She knows who runs the house, too. Me. I like a soft pillow to sleep on. She gives me the softest one in the house. I like my chin rubbed, but leave my tummy alone. She does the best chinny rub you’ve ever seen.

One thing she and I disagree about though, and I’m working on this to show her my side of the story. Why does she like smelly, noisy dogs? They scratch and slobber and yap so that a cat has little peace and quiet. And then there’s that annoying hawk. Its little beady eyes watch me, like I’m its dinner or something. It does provide some entertainment. I like to sit on top it its cage and tease it. Rebel says I shouldn’t do that, but a girl has to have some fun.

So to close, let me say, Rebel is coming along nicely in learning my likes and dislikes. Time for my nap now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Wedding Planner's Daughter, by Coleen Murtagh Paratore ~ Book Review

Cruise on over to The National Writing for Children Center - and read my book review of:
Title: The Wedding Planner’s Daughter
Written by: Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Soft cover: 200 pages
Ages: 8-13
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 978-0-689-87340-9
Publication: February 2005

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lessons I Learned from the Ants

For days I’ve been battling ants that are determined to take over my hummingbird feeders. The sugar water draws them in. If ants can think, their brains are saying, “Yummy, yummy, my favorite food.”

I’ve spread Vaseline on the windows around the suction cups that hold the feeder to the glass. That works for about two seconds before a brave, adventuresome ant finds a small path through the sticky mess and once again dines on sugar water. So I spread the Vaseline again, hoping to cover up that one tiny entrance. Ah! Good! It worked. For another two seconds. Then an ant, to prove that it’s smarter than I am, marches right through the barrier.

Okay, this clearly isn’t working, so I go on the Internet to see what other people do about the ant problem. I get conflicting advice. Use Vaseline or Vicks Vapor Rub. (Tried that, doesn’t work.) Don’t use Vaseline because the bird may rub against it and then can’t groom itself and might die. Oh! Great! Now I’m a bird killer. Other suggestions are bay leaves, terro liquid, and olive oil. None of them sound much better, and they’re all meant for feeders hanging under trees, which mine are not. There is an answer somewhere. I just haven’t found it yet. I will keep on, though, because I have to prove to those ants that I’m as smart as they are. Or until the ants’ tummies are so full they can’t drink another drop.

In the meantime, I see a parallel to my writing career and to life in general: persistence. Those little insects, barely bigger than a grain of sand, are persistent. They have a goal, and they will sacrifice anything to reach that goal. Now I don’t recommend being that drastic. I don’t want to end up drowned like most of the ants do. But if I want something badly enough I can set my goals and do everything possible (legally) to reach those goals. Think of the ants. They let nothing stand in their way. I should not let bumps in the road that steer me off course detour me, either. If my goals are worthwhile then give them my best efforts. I may not always succeed, but at least I’ve tried, and I can learn from each experience and choose another road to follow, one that perhaps is better than the previous one.

Who would have thought that those pesky ants could teach me a lesson? Persistence. They have it. I want it. At the moment the ants are winning.

By the way, if anyone has a good solution to keeping ants away from feeders, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Children's Book Review Week at The National Writing for Children Center

Hello on over to The National Writing for Children Center - for Children’s Book Review Week:

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz and reviewed by Carma Dutra

Screwball by Keri Mikulski and reviewed by Suzanne Lieurance

The Rabbit and the Snowman by Sally O. Lee and reviewed by Donna M. McDine

Be sure to check back all week long to read more reviews.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Word or Two from Rebel's Pets

Rebel’s been writing about me in her diary Rebel in Blue Jeans so it’s only fair, I get to write about her too. Just because I’m a dog doesn’t mean I can’t tell my side of the story. So here goes.

Told by Lucky.

I was minding my own business one day, playing with my rubber ball, tossing it in the air, chasing it, just being a typical puppy, when my owner picked me up, put me in the car, and said we were going for a drive. I yapped my gratitude cause I love to ride in the car. Or I used to. That day was different though.

I stuck my nose out the window and snapped at the wind blowing in my face as the car zoomed along. Instead of going to the bank though, where the teller always gave me a milk bone which I loved, we drove way out in the country. There wasn’t a house in sight.

Mmm. I thought we were playing a new game, so I wagged my tail in excitement.

Then my owner pulled the car off the road, opened the door, and set me on the ground. I waited for him to get out of the car to see what the new game was. But he closed the door and drove away. I ran after him for a short distance, but my legs got tired and I had to stop. Nobody told me the middle of the road was a bad place to rest, but I soon found out.

This car zipped around the corner and before I could move I felt a horrible pain in my back and leg. I whined that I was hurt. But the car kept going. I couldn’t walk so I just lay there in the road. The sun was hot. I was thirsty. Another car went by, but didn’t stop.

Then the sky started to get dark. I heard some weird noises. I wanted my nice soft bed in my house. They’d come back for me now. I waited. But they didn’t come back. Then this pickup drove past, stopped, backed up. A girl got out, picked me up, and told the boy driving the pickup the vet’s office was closed, but she’d fix my leg. She said she thought it was broken, whatever that means.

They took me to the girl's house, and Rebel–she told me that was her name and the boy called her Rebel–put a splint–another of her words on my leg–gave me something she said would make me feel better, along with some food that was pretty good even though I wasn’t too hungry. The boy, Will, left, but Rebel stayed with me all night, after calling her dad on a cell phone–she told me that’s how she talked to people who were somewhere else–and telling him where she was. Her dad even came to her animal hospital and scratched my nose. I like him.

Anyhow, Rebel doesn’t know how I got on the highway, and I can’t talk people talk to tell her, but she gave me a home and a new name: Lucky. I like it, and I’m happy happy.

So now you know my story.

Next time we can get hold of Rebel’s diary, Cleo wants to write in it. Ha. You didn’t know animals could write did you. It’s hard since we don’t exactly have fingers like humans, but we’re pretty smart.

BBN (Rebel’s teaching me text messaging.)

P. S. Rebel's book, Rebel in Blue Jeans, about all of us, will be out soon. Watch for it at Amazon, B&N, and Twilight Times.

Autism Epidemic - Announcement

Autism Epidemic Website:

Authors Litsa Kamateros (author of the upcoming "Welcome to my Autistic World") and award-winning author and editor Lea Schizas, are seeking parents, caregivers, and teachers of autistic children to submit their stories and/or answer a questionnaire found on: for their newest book, "Autism Epidemic."

There is no monetary compensation other than the opportunity to have readers around the world read your trials andtribulations and to connect with this ever-increasing epidemic."

Autism is a growing concern, not only in Canada but around the world.

In 1950, 1 out of every 20,000 children were diagnosed with autism. In 2008, the statistic is frightening: 1 out of 150 children. The purpose behind the questionnaire is to help us gather reliable data to study, evaluate, and sort to present a unified voice of parents with autistic children.

Think of our book as "Personal Reflections of the Autistic Soul."

Please feel free to pass this message along to your friends and groups.

Thank you.Lea Schizas

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cross & Quill ~ The Christian Writers Newsletter

Cross & Quill ~ The Christian Writers Newsletter
My byline and synopsis of my article entitled, "5 Tips for Researching Children's Stories Market Potential," has been announced on the the CWFI website: for the July/August 2008 newsletter.
Visit CWFI today to learn about this organizational newsletter.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Author Interview - James D. Adams

Children's author, James D. Adams guest author post yesterday provided a glimpse into what inspires him to write and now please join me in this fascinating interview. You will surely be impressed by his writing talent and his outreach program of giving back to the writers’ and arts community.

Donna McDine: When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

John D. Adams: I have been making up stories since I was about 4 years old. I used to draw comic books when I was 7, so really for my whole life. I even wrote a play in the 7th grade and we produced it. I used to work for Scholastic Books, but right now I am only writing, speaking at schools for a fee, touring libraries, festivals, book stores, anyone who will have me. I will also be contributing to a new on-line creative community with tips and how to’s and resources for writers, musicians, actors, comedians, etc., and on-going contests where people can get published. It’s kind of a link between new artists, established artists, the businesses that support and sell artistic products, and those who love the arts. It’s just launching this week, so I urge everyone to get involved with it, to tell their friends. This is the first place to know about it officially. The bulk of information is still be added over the next few weeks, but the first contests and anthology call for entries are running starting July 9th.

DMc: Whom or what gave you the encouragement to become a writer?

JA: My mother always encouraged me, as did my Grandfather Fred Adams. My wife has also supported my dream over the years. I had a few teachers in school too, mainly Mrs. Linda Alexander. People like Bruce Springsteen, Oprah Winfrey, and Stephen King also inspire me. They all started out very normal and with plenty of obstacles in their paths, yet they pushed on. Now it appears we’re going to have a president who had many tough hurdles to overcome, regardless of which one of them wins.

DMc: Please describe your creative process. Do you work with an outline or is it a stream of writing directly from your thoughts (or in some writers’ cases your sub-conscious mind while sleeping)?

JA: I have awoken with a complete story idea a few times. I am a big outliner, more so on a novel than a short story. A short story like the ones in Creepy Campfire Tales is usually just a plot idea, from one paragraph to a page. I figure out where I should start, then start writing. The editing process takes 3 times longer than the first draft. In a novel, I may have 60 pages of outlines. But the truth is, those outlines change almost the moment I start writing. I let the characters come to life, that often changes the outline, but I feel it is a good place to start to get an idea of where you’re going. I basically use mind maps now to initially get my ideas down, and premise. What am I trying to say, what overall feeling do I want to leave the reader with? With this one answer, I seldom lose my way now. I highly recommend the books by James Frey “How To Write A Damn Good NoveL” 1 & 2.

DMc: Where do you get your ideas for your books?

JA: We have a little pawn shop here in town where used ideas are pretty cheap. Seriously, I’d have to say overall that’s a mystery to me really. The initial story spark starts like “what if 3 guys saw a strange campfire in the woods and went to see what it was?” I get a situation in my mind, then I start answering questions, like “who would be at the fire? Anyone? What could happen? Why is there a fire?” and the next thing I know I have “Campfire In The Dark Woods” in Creepy Campfire Tales Volume 1. I always insist my tale make sense and that they are realistic. 3 teenagers out strolling around at night would go check out something like this, a 60 year old go on his way to the showers probably would not, so Bam, I have my characters general make up.

DMc: From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

JA: About 6 months. I started writing down story ideas that centered around campgrounds and campfires. So in some ways, there was a deliberate creative process, in that I forced myself to imagine scenarios around campgrounds. Now I have 3 more books in the works. The writing took a few weeks, the editing a couple months.

DMc: What has been the most memorable experience in your writing career?

JA: wSpeaking at a school and having over 200 kids give me drawings that featured their take on the “theme” of my book. It really caught me off guard and touched me in an unexpected way. To see kids drawing and writing about characters I created for “Hopper’s Pond” gave me a reward much greater than any money ever could. When you’ve struggled so long, to have such acceptance and appreciation is really humbling and thrilling. Signing that first autograph was like taming lightning too. Seeing my book on was pretty mind blowing as well, but the gift those kids gave me was the greatest. I still have every one of their drawings and always will.

DMc: What kind of obstacles have you experienced as a writer?

JA: Being taken seriously in my hometown. I got newspaper coverage, but out of town writers get it bigger, better, and on the front page. I have done as many as 3 author visits in one county about 40 miles away, but none in the one I live in. I had one local school book me for an author visit, then cancel a few days before the day because they decided to hire a guy who walks everywhere. Seriously. Their school has some pretty bad literacy scores but they brought in a guy who walks everywhere instead of a writer as he was $200 cheaper. Sure he was, he doesn’t have a book in book stores. I wouldn’t have felt so bad had they hired another writer even, but there is just not a lot of respect given to the arts in Southern Ohio. So I held this date for them, then they just casually cancel it. That kind of stuff is hard, especially when you buy a certain number of books to cover all your visits. I’m still sitting on Paint Valley’s books in July. That’s why I thought doing this art center thing was important. Artists need community, they need a support system. I have since instituted a cancel fee and a no dates held without a signed contract policy. You hate to be like that, but when your hometown schools are so casual about canceling, you have to start being more like a business. I had one, whom I knew very well, who had me booked for 5 months, then I called to finalize the details about 2 weeks before the event, and she cancelled. Why hadn’t she called me sooner or at all? Most are not like this however, but it’s a good idea to have a contract if any of your readers plan on doing this type of work. Then you have an event like the one mentioned above or like in Greenfield where the librarian decorates the halls with stuff from your book and they treat you like royalty and it makes the tough times worth it.

DMc: Please share with us your current writing project.

JA: Rockwell New Hampshire will be a series about a family in a Mayberry type town and will feature many great stories focusing on the importance of community and trying to live a sustainable life. The first books are probably 9 months or so away. I’m also working on more Creepy Campfire Tales.

DMc: What would you be if you were not a writer?

JA: I’d like to make movies and have a T.V. show. I was once a musician, but being married with 2 kids now makes that kind of impractical. I enjoy my family too much to be away from them that much.

DMc: What do you do when you’re not writing?

JA: Spend time with my kids and wife mostly. They love the outdoors as much as I do, so we take walks a few times a day. I probably walk more than that guy Paint Valley hire, I just don’t try to get people to pay me to talk about it. LOL. I love reading as well, these days mostly about writing and marketing your work. But family is what it’s all about for me. They give me all the inspiration I need.

To learn more about James please visit any one (or all) of the below websites:

Internationally published Author of Creepy Campfire Tales, Hopper's Pond, & The upcoming Dark Valley Ohio Novel Series and October 31st Poems and Stories. for complete media kit, to learn more about upcoming releases, join the nightfire fan club, or to book an author visit. to order books and learn more about this hit series. to place wholesale orders for campground stores, gift stores, haunted attractions, or book stores. visit my space for forums and chat. Invite me as a friend and we'll grow a community together.
Visit here to see all my talked about videos, book trailers, interviews, readings, and sneak peeks at future titles. Many are finding this more entertaining than TV.

Buy Creepy on Amazon at
Any good reviews are appreciated and prizes are awarded for the best reviews each year. Also available at Barnes & Noble and your local bookstore, and in bookstores and on Amazon in the U.K.

Monday, July 7, 2008

James D. Adams - Guest Author

Hello All...please welcome author, James D. Adams as my guest author today. James talks about what inspires him to write. Be sure to stop back tomorrow to read my interview with James.

My kids really inspire me a lot to write my children’s titles.

It was when I found we were going to have a son after our year battle with infertility, that I started writing children’s stories. 3 years at Scholastic helped this along too. I had written adult stuff under a another name for years, but I wanted a break from that and wanted to tackle the challenge of kids and YA fiction.

A 32 page picture book is nearly as tough to do well as a 300 page novel. I had read hundreds of books while at Scholastic, so I had a fresh mind as to what was in the market. I always felt a sense of accomplishment from writing that other things just don’t povide. I worked at Scholastic for 3 years as an example, and all I really have to show for it is a few awards. Sure, it paid bills and so forth, but I don’t look at my desk and go “That was bought with money I earned at Scholastic”. But everytime I see one of my books on the shelf here in my study or at a book store, I think “That’s what I accomplished in 2006, 2007, etc.” It’s like something solid to show for your time. Most people don’t really get me on this. They feel after 40 years on a job, if they get a good pension, they are satisfied. But the way my mind works, I would feel like all I had to show for all those years was a monthly check. It sounds strange I know, but I’d rather see 2 shelves full of books with my name on them.

So this sense of leaving something behind for future generations hopefully, really drives me to write on days when I don’t feel like it. Also, after having started speaking in public, I have fallen in love with that audience connection, with doing book signings and meeting the people who read my books. It feels like having a new family, like I am now somehow connected to all these new people.

Doing this post to your wonderful blog is inspiring to me, as I love the notion someone would take the time to connect with me and my work in this way. But mostly, I just feel like I have all these different worlds swirling around in my head and I need to show them to everyone, because maybe there is someone who has been waiting a long time to meet these people. Maybe somehow I can make a new connection with a fellow human being by telling their story. Isn’t that what the arts are really about after all? Making a connection is everything to me.

Thanks for reading,

James D. Adams

Internationally published Author of Creepy Campfire Tales, Hopper's Pond, & The upcoming Dark Valley Ohio Novel Series and October 31st Poems and Stories. for complete media kit, to learn more about upcoming releases, join the nightfire fan club, or to book an author visit. to order books and learn more about this hit series. to place wholesale orders for campground stores, gift stores, haunted attractions, or book stores. visit my space for forums and chat. Invite me as a friend and we'll grow a community together.
Visit here to see all my talked about videos, book trailers, interviews, readings, and sneak peeks at future titles. Many are finding this more entertaining than TV.

Buy Creepy on Amazon at
Any good reviews are appreciated and prizes are awarded for the best reviews each year. Also available at Barnes & Noble and your local bookstore, and in bookstores and on Amazon in the U.K.

2008 Muse Online Conference

Last year I attended an online weeklong writer's conference entitled, "Muse Online Conference" and it was a wonderful opportunity to attend online lectures and chats and to network with fellow writers across the globe.

Don't miss this opportunity to attend the 2008 conference, October 13-19, 2008.

For further information go to:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy July 4th

“I pledge allegiance
to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands.
One nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty
and justice for all.”
Wishing you all a very Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stories for Children Magazine ~ "The 'Ghosts' of the Night"

I am pleased to announce that my children's non-fiction article entitled, "The 'Ghosts' of the Night," is published in the July 2008 issue of Stories for Children Magazine ~
Be sure to stop by and read this month's issue.